Fewer people using high street shops after Covid

time:2023-06-04 11:13:03source:NBC News author:Press center6

Town and city centre shops are still struggling to recover from the pandemic, according to new figures.

The Welsh Retail Consortium (WRC) says compared to pre-pandemic 2019 levels, total Welsh footfall is 10% lower.

It is warning that energy bills and inflation could also slow recovery but some businesses are bucking the trend.

Stephen Afia, who runs the Wales Shop in Cardiff, says the key to encouraging shoppers is niche products and good customer service.

The WRC added that footfall in Welsh shopping centres is 32.8% lower and footfall in Cardiff is 13.4% lower compared to 2019.

Mr Afia said: "Pre the pandemic, we were selling more souvenirs and touristy items. Obviously the tourists disappeared.

"We look for individual, interesting, independent brands that weren't offered anywhere else in Cardiff and we've got great staff who spend time with customers and make the customers feel special."

Some shoppers say since Covid online shopping has become the norm while others still like the buzz of city centre shopping.

Alun Caffery from Nelson, Caerphilly county travels to the capital to shop at small independent food shops and the big name retailers.

He says he's sad to see the end of big stores such as House of Fraser which is about to close after more than 150 years of trading, first as Howells.

He said: "I come into Cardiff at least once a week, I love it, it's smashing place, it really is. I love the cockles at the fish market and treats from the deli and a cup of coffee."

Jenny Jones from Pyle, Bridgend county, comes into the capital around three times a year to browse and says big department stores were a huge draw for shoppers.

She said she was sad to see Debenhams disappear from the high street.

Sara Jones, from the WRC, said: "The health of the Welsh economy is highly dependent on what happens to consumer spending, and this will be tested further in the coming months as inflation and household energy bills remains elevated.

"Visits to stores [last month] was up almost 15% on the same month last year, with Wales recording the best footfall figures of the GB Nations.

"However, this was hugely flattered by the weak comparable period 12 months ago, when Welsh stores were still heavily under Covid restrictions and when consumer confidence was at a low."

For some shoppers, the lockdown has changed their shopping habits and a visit to city centre shops is now a rarity.

Victoria Jones from St Fagans, Cardiff was shopping with her nine-year-old daughter Eiry during Thursday's teachers' strike. She said she'd rather go to out-of-town malls where parking is easier and cheaper.

"I don't come into town very often compared with what I used to, I just find I got into the habit of online shopping instead," she said.

"I don't like crowds anymore, so I tend not to come in if we don't have to."

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