As part of the drive to mark Independent Retailers Month in Swansea throughout July, Amelia Rudman, Projects Manager of Swansea Business Improvement District, shares her reasons why businesses should set up in the city.
“The old Chinese proverb ‘may you live in interesting times’ might have been coined for the UK retail sector in 2018. Some of our most beloved brands have struggled to stay afloat, while others are deftly reconfiguring their offer in response to the public’s ever-shifting shopping habits.
“However, retail has always been an agile sector and Swansea has welcomed 12 new retailers to the City Centre over the past year, including Swans Official and Smiggle. In fact, is this the optimum time for savvy retailers to set up shop in Swansea?
“Here are 10 good reasons businesses should make Swansea City Centre their home.”
- To be in a prime location in time for the unfolding of Swansea City Centre’s regeneration. £200 million of investment is set to pour into the City Centre, bringing a 3,500 seat arena, a high end hotel, a redeveloped Castle Gardens and Kingsway, new retail and innovation space – all designed to make Swansea City Centre more attractive to visitors, residents, shoppers and students.
- Swansea is being redesigned for the future. The changing makeup of a revitalised Swansea City Centre, with its growing focus on a balance of residential, attractive public spaces, leisure sites as well as retail, is in line with advice from the leading experts in City Centre economics. This so-called ‘supermix’ is the favoured approach across all redeveloping, and evolving towns and cities, in a bid to revitalise local economies.
- Swansea shoppers are loyal to their favourite stores and to local brands. While there is always an appetite for exciting new retail outlets, Swansea shoppers have a loyalty to the old favourites too. This is partly because you can get good ‘old fashioned service’ from the stalwarts of the high street, but also because the growing trend for provenance, locally sourced, low air miles is something Swansea shoppers have always been able to find on their doorstep – whether this is from the fine seafood, cheese and grocery stalls in Swansea Market, or from the array of family run independent butchers in the City Centre, like The Gower Butcher or Billy Upton Butchers, The Swansea way is the trendy way!
- A booming food and beverage sector – Swansea has long been renowned for its vibrant pub and club scene, but the restaurant and café scene is thriving noticeably too, with popular chains like Turtle Bay, Las Iguanas, Zinco Lounge and Dennys making an impact. Smaller beauties like Juniper Place and Copper Bar have invested their future in the city and are offering a tasteful, relaxed experience in handsome surroundings.
- Scores of crowd-pulling events go ahead in Swansea throughout the year to generate and maintain footfall. Nationally renowned ones like Swansea’s Biggest Weekend, the Wales Airshow and the JCP Swansea Half Marathon, as well as Swansea Triathlon, farmers markets, classic vehicle shows, food and beer festivals, Swansea Fringe, Dance Days, open air film screenings, student shopping days, fashion events and more keep the City Centre buzzing, year-round.
- There is credible support here for business investors. Swansea BID and Swansea Council work closely together to offer parking savings, business rate relief schemes – like the one announced last month, offering up to £750 rate relief for eligible firms – as well as running cost savings schemes, start-up support and grants. The parking offers alone are harnessing valuable extra footfall. Swansea BID figures for 2015/16 more than 237,500 vehicles used the £3 for 3 hours NCP offer in Swansea City Centre, with £1,472 per day in worker car parking savings – a great incentive for shoppers and for the workforce.
- The South West Wales lifestyle. If you set up business in Swansea and you choose to work and live here, then you get to enjoy the famous Swansea lifestyle, from its beaches, watersports, and other outdoor activities, to its vibrant night life, complete with Purple Flag status. Again – that’s not a bad set of incentives for employers looking to recruit staff, is it?
- Swansea City Centre is home to a supportive community of businesses and retailers. Swansea BID alone, which operates within the very heart of the city centre, represents more than 800 businesses, and these form a tight-knit group, many of whom have been trading here for years, and who are happy to share expertise.
- Big brands have already made Swansea their home and they continue to do so. Dennys opened its first UK branch here and they are doing very brisk business. The first UK Costa drive-thru installed itself next to it in the freshly refurbished Parc Tawe, Ikea is eyeing the neighbouring plot, not to mention the Swans FC shop, bringing the team to the heart of Swansea, in Whitewalls. And of course, Marks and Spencer, Next, Debenhams, Primark, Smiggle, Lush and Waterstones – all must-have high street names – make Swansea City Centre their home.
- Small businesses are thriving in Swansea at a time when similar businessess – family run butchers, record shops, camera stores, fabric shops – in other towns are shutting up shop. Swansea has long-running businesses that originated here – like Madame Foner and Rowberry, Camera Centre Swansea, Swansea Carpets, Lee Mill Fabrics, Derricks, and an array of family butchers, as well as South Wales concerns like Valley Mill – all of which cater to niche markets and do so with great success.