SHOPPING IN CITY THRIVING DESPITE ECONOMY; Vacancy Rate Bucks UK's Retail Trend
Byline: Helen Turner
CARDIFF'S flourishing shopping scene has bucked a national recession-led trend, new figures have shown.
The city was one of just eight out of 63 large centres in Britain, alongside London and Liverpool, to show a consistent annual improvement in its shop vacancy rate.
One retail expert said Cardiff's resilience, demonstrated in the survey by analysts The Local Data Company (LDC), was due to its ability to successfully reinvent itself and attract new investors.
Brian Morgan, professor of entrepreneurship at Uwic, said: "It's very important these days for cities to reinvent themselves successfully. I think Cardiff is an example of that, and I think Swansea to some extent is going down that route.
"Even before St David's, people were very complimentary about the central nature of Cardiff.
"You can walk without going out into the weather. It's focused very much on giving a shopping experience.
"It explains why Newport isn't doing it. It has tried one or two initiatives but none of them have been as successful."
Professor Morgan noted that Bristol had a higher percentage of empty shops, despite opening their shopping centre Cabot Circus just two years ago.
He added: "If you go to the shopping centre, it's a bit like going through a wind tunnel; it's not completely enclosed. It's a bit bitty; there are three places you can go shopping not to mention Cribbs Causeway." While the highest UK shop vacancy rate was Altrincham in Cheshire, at 30%, the survey conducted between January and June 2010 showed Cardiff's rate was just 12.4%.
Although the city's loss of Borders and recently the iconic menswear shop The Wardrobe were a sign of the competitive times, more than 100 retailers have opened within St David's shopping centre since it was launched last October.
Steven Madeley, centre director for St David's, said: "Opening a shopping centre of this size during last year's economic climate was a brave move but one that boosted the city as a whole. …