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Wales faces second highest vacant shop crisis in the UK

NEWLY released data from the Welsh Retail Consortium (WRC) has revealed that Wales is grappling with the second-highest number of vacant shops across the United Kingdom. Approximately one in six stores in Wales now stands empty, posing significant concerns for the local economy.

Sara Jones, a representative from the WRC, expressed the economic implications of this trend, stating, “Clearly that’s bad news for the economy because retail plays such an integral role.”

Wales’s retail industry is facing a multitude of challenges, including business rates, energy prices, and local issues like antisocial behavior that deter shoppers from visiting stores. These factors have contributed to a rise in the rate of empty shops from 16.5% to 17.0% during the second quarter of 2023.

Research conducted by the Centre for Cities in 2021 singled out Newport as the city with the highest number of vacant units in the entire UK. Shoppers in Newport, like Jeanette Scurry and John Richards, expressed their frustration with the city’s declining retail landscape.

Jeanette Scurry shared her disappointment, saying, “I usually go to Cardiff or Cwmbran even though I live in Newport. But I thought today I’d come to Newport. I don’t know why I bothered. There’s nothing here; it’s a mess.”

John Richards added, “I used to come to Newport and get what I needed and go home with it, but I can’t do that anymore. I need to go out of town or to one of the big supermarkets.”

Newport City Council defended its efforts to revitalize the city, highlighting successful projects like the transformation of Newport Market, the regeneration of Market Arcade, and the Chartist Tower development. However, the council emphasized that a significant portion of vacant units was owned by absent or disengaged landlords.

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the shift towards online shopping, with digital and online sales accounting for 27% of total retail sales at the start of 2023, compared to just under 3% in 2006. This transformation has had profound consequences for high street retailers.

Wilko, a popular homeware chain, recently announced its administration, putting 12,500 jobs at risk, with 29 of its stores located in Wales, primarily on struggling high streets like Morriston in Swansea. Shoppers in Morriston, such as Gillian Roberts and Mike Williams, lamented the decline of their high street.

Gillian Roberts expressed her frustration, saying, “It’s terrible, there’s nothing left in Morriston now.”

Mike Williams added, “It’s very sad. If you haven’t got a car, you get a bus into town – but now there’s not much in town.”

Despite these challenges, some Welsh high streets are bucking the trend. Treorchy, located in Rhondda Cynon Taf, won the UK High Street of the Year Award in 2020. Dr. Robert Bowen from Cardiff Business School highlighted the importance of focusing on independent businesses and building a strong community spirit.

“The key to our growth in Treorchy has been focusing on independent businesses,” said Adrian Emmett, a local pub landlord. “Rather than the products, it’s about the people.”

In response to these challenges, the Welsh government has launched a retail action plan aimed at increasing footfall and encouraging more people to live in town and city centers, with a goal to revitalize these areas and bring vibrancy back to Welsh town centers. The government emphasizes the vital contribution of the retail sector to Wales’ private sector employment and its role in supporting town and city centers as well as rural communities.W

released data from the Welsh Retail Consortium (WRC) has revealed that Wales is grappling with the second-highest number of vacant shops across the United Kingdom. Approximately one in six stores in Wales now stands empty, posing significant concerns for the local economy.

Sara Jones, a representative from the WRC, expressed the economic implications of this trend, stating, “Clearly that’s bad news for the economy because retail plays such an integral role.”

Wales’s retail industry is facing a multitude of challenges, including business rates, energy prices, and local issues like antisocial behavior that deter shoppers from visiting stores. These factors have contributed to a rise in the rate of empty shops from 16.5% to 17.0% during the second quarter of 2023.

Research conducted by the Centre for Cities in 2021 singled out Newport as the city with the highest number of vacant units in the entire UK.

Newport City Council defended its efforts to revitalize the city, highlighting successful projects like the transformation of Newport Market, the regeneration of Market Arcade, and the Chartist Tower development. However, the council emphasized that a significant portion of vacant units was owned by absent or disengaged landlords.

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the shift towards online shopping, with digital and online sales accounting for 27% of total retail sales at the start of 2023, compared to just under 3% in 2006. This transformation has had profound consequences for high street retailers.

Wilko, a popular homeware chain, recently announced its administration, putting 12,500 jobs at risk, with 29 of its stores located in Wales, primarily on struggling high streets like Morriston in Swansea.

Despite these challenges, some Welsh high streets are bucking the trend. Treorchy, located in Rhondda Cynon Taf, won the UK High Street of the Year Award in 2020. Dr. Robert Bowen from Cardiff Business School highlighted the importance of focusing on independent businesses and building a strong community spirit.

“The key to our growth in Treorchy has been focusing on independent businesses,” said Adrian Emmett, a local pub landlord. “Rather than the products, it’s about the people.”

In response to these challenges, the Welsh government has launched a retail action plan aimed at increasing footfall and encouraging more people to live in town and city centers, with a goal to revitalize these areas and bring vibrancy back to Welsh town centers. The government emphasizes the vital contribution of the retail sector to Wales’ private sector employment and its role in supporting town and city centers as well as rural communities.

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