Lucy Sherriff is currently studying a PgDip in newspaper journalism at Cardiff University. She also runs her own blog on vintage fashion and shopping at vintage www.sherrifflucy.blogspot.com
In the past couple of years, Cardiff has seen many independent stores close due to the recession.
The retailers who survived the worst of the economic downturn now face a new challenge; taking on the high street giants.
By Lucy Sherriff
In September 2009, John Lewis opened its doors to stories of clothes, homeware, perfumes, electronics, and furniture.
The corporate giant was part of a scheme to regenerate the Hayes, and bring business and money to Cardiff. Certainly, Cardiff has benefited from the new St David’s shopping centre, but how well have independent stores fared?
As part of the city centre’s facelift, St Mary’s Street was pedestrianised. Many owners of shops in the arcades have complained their footfall has decreased since this change. Several of the arcade shops were left out of pocket due to the lengthy roadworks on St Mary’s Street.
Rachael Corrigan, who owns Couture clothing in Castle Street Arcade, said: “The council were right to do the roadworks, but they didn’t do them in the best way. A lot of people went under as a result of the works, because they lost so much business.
“Morale is really low at the moment.”
In addition to the problematic roadworks, shops in the arcades have had to cope with increased competition from high street stores which have appeared in the Hayes over the past year. Hobo’s, in the High Street Arcade, is under threat from Urban Outfitters which opened last Thursday.
Peter Walsh, who works in the vintage store said: “We still have loyal customers who will shop here, because we sell similar items to Urban Outfitters, but at cheaper prices.
“However, we’ve definitely seen a decrease in customers.”
Wardrobe, a men’s clothing store, used to occupy the space opposite Hobo’s. They had traded in the High Street arcade for almost 20 years, but owner Mano Lima shut up shop earlier this year. He held the retail giants in the newly developed shopping centre to blame.
Many of the arcade stores are concerned the shoppers who visit Cardiff to do their Christmas shopping will head to John Lewis and the other high street chains, rather than exploring the arcades. Some of the Christmas market stalls in St Mary’s Street have apparently already been compensated by the council due to lack of business, yet they have only been open a few weeks.
Rhian Samuel owns Looby Loo’s in High Street Arcade, along with her daughter, Lowri Grove. The store, which opened in October last year, has also seen a decrease in footfall, yet has not received compensation. Mrs Samuel said: “The council refuses to recognise we have had a significant loss of earnings.
“It is the council business rate which needs to be reduced.”
Miss Grove added “We offer a very different shopping experience to St David’s so it is quite difficult to compete. Hopefully, business will pick up for Christmas.”
It appears it is not the new stores who should be held responsible for the decrease in business for independent shops.
Instead, many people feel the council needs to support local retailers, to ensure Cardiff maintains its individuality, and local traders can survive.