With Independent Retailer Month continuing to unfold throughout July, Swansea City Centre retailers are staging a fightback against the much-talked about demise of the high street.
More than 20 businesses set up shop in Swansea City Centre last year and this year – including estate agencies, a vegan café, a record store, travel shop, barber shops and many others. And there is increasing evidence that the small independent retail sector is enjoying an upturn.
In 2018, there was an 11 percent increase in investment in small firms in Wales and the Development Bank of Wales last year invested £21m of equity into Welsh SMEs, £5m of this in West Wales. Here in Swansea, City Centre businesses are responding to shifting consumer habits by modernising their operations.
With more than 21 percent of sales now done online, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), more than 20 stores in Swansea City Centre now offer shoppers the convenience of Click and Collect, with free Click and Collect 15 minute parking spaces being provided close to the City Centre, in Garden Street. Research company, Global Data, reports that 70 percent of those collecting or returning parcels make impulse in-store purchases, so the trend towards Click and Collect is good for the high street.
According to Oxfam Cymru, 69 percent of shoppers want to shop with smaller, local firms, largely for environmental reasons, so there is a recognition that independents are an important part of our local economies, whose ethos chimes with the prevailing eco-friendly trends.
Russell Greenslade, Chief Executive of Swansea BID (Business Improvement District), which is promoting Independents’ Month throughout July, said: “It is clear that, despite some negative headlines around the future of town and city centres, the picture is much more nuanced. In fact, in many ways, small Independent businesses are very much on trend. Their way of operating, their attention to customer care, and the fact that the money consumers spend with them tends to go back into the local economy, is very much in line with the way more mindful consumers want to shop now.
“As far as the local picture is concerned, we know a number of the small businesses that have moved into Swansea City Centre in recent months have done so expressly because of the unfolding regeneration – they have their eye fixed very much on the City Centre that is emerging, not least with the influx of students due to inhabit the new student accommodation being built here at the moment.
“Research suggests that for every £1 spent locally, 50 to 70p remains in the local economy, as compared with just 5p when that £1 is spent out of town or online. This month we’re hoping to see even more people making the choice to shop with independents in the City Centre, who fully appreciate their support.”
Goff Doolan, owner of the fashion boutique, Moustache, in Swansea’s Cradock Street, said: “Shoppers love the fact that we are a small local business with individual stock, and they like the fact that they can engage with us personally about what they want. Consumers can’t get that kind of feedback online.”