In the run up to Christmas Cardiff transforms into a shoppers paradise and with the recent completion of the St Davids complex this change is much more noticeable.
I went to investigate how the redevelopment of Cardiff city centre has enhanced the celebration of Christmas in the city.
Shopping options in the city
Cardiff has the biggest John Lewis in Wales and a wide variety of smaller boutique shops. From mid November the city turns on its Christmas lights and opens its ice skating rink in the Winter Wonderland.
Combined with Queen Street and the Christmas Market near the Cardiff Castle, Cardiff gives shoppers a wide range of options.
St Davids and the redevelopment of the city centre
When the new St Davids Centre opened on 22nd October, 50 retailers opened shops inside the centre. Since then a further 30 have opened stores with another 13 expected in the new year.
However as you can see on the St Davids website not all of the available retail spaces have yet been sold. This is a result of the twin pressures facing the whole retail sector at the moment;
- People are not spending as much as they used to because everything is more expensive.
- Shops are not earning as much as they used to because people are not spending and therefore they are not necessarily expanding.
Despite the difficulties of the financial recession St Davids had three-quarters of a million visitors in its first three days and will be opening more shops in the New Year.
The City of Arcades
Cardiff is often called the City of Arcades because of its high concentration of Victorian and Edwardian Shopping Arcades which house a variety of small boutique shops and cafes.
The Cardiff Central Market Traders Association was concerned that Cardiff City Council was overlooking the needs of the Arcades in a time of financial recession. They claimed that the council overlooked the High Street and St Mary’s Street by being too focused on the redevelopment of Queen Street.
Some of the boutique shops in the Arcades have closed down over the past 6 months, which means that Morgan’s Arcade amongst others has got empty shops available for leasing in the New Year.
However traders are now saying that they face decreasing sales in the run up to Christmas because of the weather, not as a result of the redevelopment of the city centre.
Shoppers seem to prefer visiting St Davids and the linked Queens Arcade complex when the weather turns bad, and after weeks of heavy rains in Cardiff this is starting to impact the Arcades sales.
However as Christmas gets ever closer more and more people are using the specialist shops in the Arcades to buy unique presents for their loved ones.
Christmas in Cardiff
The redevelopment of Cardiff City Centre has provided a greater range of opportunities for festive activities in the city.
The turning on of the Christmas lights attracted thousands of people, when the cast of Merlin switched on the Christmas Lights.
The Cardiff Arms Park Choir who rehearse in the Cardiff Blues club house, attended the opening of John Lewis in the St Davids Centre. They have also performed in the Queens Arcade so the redevelopment has given them more performance spaces.
The St Davids Centre has set up a performance stage in between the Morgan Arcade and its Trinity Street entrance. The fans of X Factor star Llyod Daniels shut down this street on Monday night.
When combined with all the Christmas lights between the Arcades and St Davids, it creates a festive atmosphere between all the different retail sections of Cardiff.
The redevelopment has brought more people to Cardiff
Two years ago Cardiff city centre was dominated by ugly 1960s architecture and busy roads.
Last year the city centre was mainly a building site, which hindered Christmas shopping and drove potential customers to out of town shopping centres.
With the new pedestrian zones and the completion of St Davids, Cardiff is once again a welcoming place for people from across South Wales to come shopping.