Swansea BID (Business Improvement District) celebrates the opening of 60e new business in Swansea city center since January 2020.
According to a recent Federation of Small Business report on Welsh towns, only 3% of residents believe their town centers are thriving; but given the impact of Covid-19, Swansea BID has continued to see businesses open since the start of the pandemic.
High street giants replaced by independents
Since January 2020, 66 new businesses have opened in the city centre. During the same period, only 27 closed, with more than half of those businesses citing the pandemic as the reason. As many high street names like Debenhams, Disney, Topshop and Pizza Express have closed, the rate of opening small independent businesses has increased.
“We have seen strong growth in start-ups over the past few years. I think great customer service and a great experience is a key factor in their success,” said Russell Greenslade, Managing Director of Swansea BID. “We’ve also seen strong growth in the hospitality sector, self-employed and more sustainable businesses.”
Responses to the FSB survey showed that 67% of people in Wales believe their town centers are ‘bad’ or ‘dark’. The Vision for Welsh Towns report makes a series of recommendations to support and grow businesses in town centres, many of which are actively doing Swansea BID; including helping to reduce business costs and supporting businesses directly.
The main street is resilient
Simon Kendrick, manager of the Games Emporium on Swansea’s High Street said the company is likely to renew its lease for another 10 years thanks to its confidence in the developments occurring in Swansea.
“We loved growing up with the High Street, it was fabulous to see the once run down and depressed part of town continue its transformation into a vibrant part of the city’s cultural life,” he said.
“Swansea BID has been helpful in driving some of this change with initiatives such as the Big Heart and city-wide treasure tracks to drive shoppers our way, as well as more behind-the-scenes support, such as advocating reductions in street table rates for local cafes.
“The BID is currently helping us (along with many other businesses) to apply for a grant to renovate our storefront which will further enhance the look and character of the High Street,” Kendrick said.
Invest in regeneration
With £1billion due to be invested in regeneration projects over the next few years, Swansea’s landscape is set to transform.
Cllr Robert Francis-Davies, Swansea Council Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Investment and Tourism, said: “The growth is encouraging. It shows the combination of our business talents and the work the council and its partners are doing to regenerate Swansea to create a modern, confident city that attracts more and more business to invest in.
“We are doing everything we can to create an environment where businesses can thrive, like the £135million Copr Bay neighborhood and our work to transform the look of The Kingsway and Wind Street.
“Much more is also planned, including a redesign of Castle Square Gardens, a state-of-the-art office on the former site of the Oceana nightclub and the work our development partners Urban Splash are carrying out to transform parts of the city centre, including the old St David’s shopping centre.
“Our business community, residents and visitors have much to look forward to.”