Swansea Shows Rise in Business Growth Despite Fears High Streets are Empty
Swansea BID (Business Improvement District) are celebrating the opening of the 60th new business in Swansea City Centre since January 2020.
According to a recent Federation of Small Business report on Welsh towns, only 3% of people feel their town centres are thriving; but given the impact of Covid-19, Swansea BID have continued to see businesses opening since the pandemic began.
High Street Giants Replaced by Independents
Since January 2020, 66 new businesses have opened in the city centre. In the same period, only 27 have closed, with over half of these businesses citing the pandemic as the reason. As many large high street names such as Debenhams, Disney, Topshop and Pizza Express have closed, the rate of smaller, independent businesses opening has increased.
“We have seen strong growth in start-up businesses over the last few years. I think excellent customer service and experience is a key factor in their success,” said Russell Greenslade, Swansea BID Chief Executive. “We have also seen sharp growth in the hospitality sector, independents and more sustainable businesses.”
Responses to the FSB survey showed that 67% of people in Wales feel that their town centres are ‘bad’ or ‘bleak’. The Vision for Welsh Towns report makes a series of recommendations to support and grow businesses in town centres, many of which Swansea BID actively do; including helping to reduce business costs and directly supporting businesses.
The High Street is Resilient
Simon Kendrick, Director of the Games Emporium on Swansea’s High Street said the business is likely to renew their lease for another 10 years thanks to their confidence in the developments happening in Swansea.
“We’ve enjoyed growing with the High Street, it has been fabulous to see the once run down and talked down part of town continue its transformation towards a vibrant part of the city’s cultural life,” he said.
“Swansea BID have been helpful in driving some of that change with initiatives like the Big Heart and city-wide treasure trails to drive shoppers our way, as well as more behind the scenes support like advocating reductions in street-table rates for local cafes. Currently, the BID is assisting us (and many other businesses) with applying for grant funding to renovate our shopfront, which will further enhance the appearance and character of the High Street,” said Kendrick.
Investing in Regeneration
With £1bn set to be invested in regeneration projects over the next few years, the landscape of Swansea is set to transform.
Cllr Robert Francis-Davies, Swansea Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Investment and Tourism said, “The growth is encouraging. It shows the combination of our business talent and the work the council and its partners are carrying out to regenerate Swansea to create a modern, confident city that’s attracting more and more businesses to invest.
“We’re doing all we can to create an environment where businesses can thrive, such as the £135m Copr Bay district and our work to transform the look and feel of The Kingsway and Wind Street.
“Much more is planned too, including a revamp of Castle Square Gardens, a state-of-the-art office at the former Oceana nightclub site, and the work our development partners Urban Splash are leading on to transform parts of the city centre, including the old St David’s Shopping Centre.
“Our business community, residents and visitors have lots to look forward to.”