Swansea retailers say the city’s students are proving to be a valuable support system for their businesses, and they are welcoming the new development that is going on throughout the City Centre to accommodate the influx of young people.
Just last month Swansea’s annual Student Shopping Event, organised by Swansea BID (Business Improvement District) and the Quadrant Shopping Centre, saw more than 6,000 young people flock to the City Centre to take advantage of special deals and discounts laid on by the businesses. Those figures show a 39.8 percent uplift in the attendance compared to last year’s event, and its effects were felt by a number of City Centre businesses.
Amelia Rudman, Projects Manager for Swansea BID, said: “We are very pleased with the growing popularity of the Student Shopping Event and, crucially, by the very positive feedback from our Swansea BID businesses, who reported brisk trade and a much needed sales uplift. We organise a number of crowd pulling happenings at key dates throughout the year, for all kinds of consumers, in order to support our Swansea BID area businesses. However, it is clear that the student pound is invaluable to the local economy. Students add £2 billion a year to the Welsh economy, off-campus, and If we want to future-proof our City Centre and our high street, it makes sense to cater for the needs of students, within the broad mix of the Swansea City Centre offering. Consequently, we feel very positive about the development of Swansea University and about the new, state of the art student accommodation that is rising up in the heart of the City Centre, in places like Orchard Street.”
She adds: “I know some people have concerns about the effect of more students on the City Centre at night, but Swansea has proved itself to be a safe, friendly and vibrant City after dark, and we have many safeguards in place, including taxi marshals, the Safer Swansea Tent, street pastors, the Purple Flag and Best Bar None schemes, to underpin this.”
The City Centre traders themselves have insights that debunk the myth that catering to students is solely about providing Happy Hours and Two For One drinking offers in bars.
Alan Hopkins, Manager at The Gower Butcher, in Portland Street, says: “Students are a real growth market for us. We see more and more come though our doors who want to buy locally sourced, quality meat and they are knowledgeable about what they are buying and how to prepare and to cook it. This is a trend we’re very happy with, we work hard to cater for it, and we want it to continue.”
Ben Miles, who owns the Culture fashion store in Swansea High Street, with his brother Matthew Read, said: “We opened Culture three months ago and we chose Swansea High Street specifically because of the nearby student village development. Things are going well for us here. We took part in the Student Shopping Event, by setting up a pop-up shop near The Quadrant, and we had a very good day of trading. We find that student have disposable income, they want to look good, so their custom is good for fashion outlets, for other retailers, for Swansea’s cafes and food places, as well as the night time businesses. Bringing young people into the City Centre to live, shop and socialise can only be a good thing.”
Similarly, Nancy Buka, co-owner of Nancie Beauty, says: “I have been a business owner in different locations in High Street for six years, so I have seen a lot of changes here and great improvement that the business owners, the Police, The Council, Swansea BID and Coastal Housing can be proud of. About 20 percent of my customers are students and, as a student at Swansea University myself five years ago, I know how much more is available for students as consumers here now. This is something we need to build on all the time if Swansea is going to thrive, and if we are going to keep people shopping locally, rather than heading to other cities or going online.”
Swansea Council leader Rob Stewart said: “I’m pleased that City Centre traders are seeing how an increasingly vibrant student population can benefit their business – even in tough trading times. Students often get a bad rap but they add significantly to the economy of the city.
“Swansea is undergoing a dramatic transformation – and the scale and number of developments will continue to increase. The new city centre will be a fantastic place for people to live, work and enjoy their spare time. As part of the transformation hundreds more student homes are being built, helping to protect homes from being converted to HMO’s. Properties for others such as families and young professionals are also being built. I’m sure that feel-good factor will continue to grow.”