THE NEWSDESK: First signs we're putting the heart back into our city centre

South Wales Argus: MAKEOVER: Wildings store manager Sally Ford MAKEOVER: Wildings store manager Sally Ford

THE reaction to our story last week that despite some very difficult times, the Wildings department store was aiming to stay in the city centre, was interesting.

Thousands read it. And there were a number of comments left on our website showing the depth of affection there is in the city for one of its commercial institutions.

We announced that the city's oldest high street department store is having a £140,000 makeover in May.

Store bosses say that demonstrates its loyalty to the city it serves, and has served since 1874.

Peter James, managing director of the Wildings Group since 1995, says: “The level of trade has been dire since 2006. We’ve had year on year decreases in sales, so we had a business decision to make.”

The store could have pulled out of its birthplace and continued its business in its shops in Cardiff, Bath and Thornbury.

But instead it is giving our ailing city centre one last chance on the promise of the redevelopment of Friar's Walk and the trade the move of the Admiral jobs into the city centre will bring.

Mr James, whose father was director before him, says: “We have got a proud history of trading in Newport. We’ll give it one last shot, so that if we have to close we can say to ourselves we did all we could.”

The department store founded by 21-year-old hatter Alfred Wilding is a bell-weather for the health of our city centre.

If we want our city to have a thriving centre, businesses like Wildings - so much a part of Newport's history - have to be able to flourish.

And forget any idea that independent department stores should be consigned to the Are You Being Served? generation.

If our city centre does not offer destination shopping, and a good shopping experience with good customer service, why should people not simply stay home and click on websites all day?

High street shopping survives when it is a social event, and what better place for that than our independent department stores?

Mr James says it all: “There are not enough reasons to come into town. We hope we will be a reason for local shoppers to come back into the town.”

There was more positive news with the Assembly Viable and Vibrant Places funds which the city has secured.

How that cash - close to £15m - is going to be spent is a good step forward.

The three-year-long regeneration project includes a raft of property and training-based schemes, with a big focus on bringing many of the city centre’s neglected upper floors back into use.

And a number of projects will be bringing people to live and work in non-retail jobs at the heart of our city centre.

Transforming great old buildings in the process.

Music to my ears, as those who regularly read this column will know.

The funds will mean Newport council works alongside private developers and social landlords.

There are plans to create space for business start-ups also in the offing.

One of the projects set to benefit from V&VP grant cash is a scheme to transform the Grade II listed former Yates Wine Lodge on High Street into a 60-bedroom Premier Inn Hotel, where work has already started.

There are proposals for the facade of Park Square car park and neighbouring two shops to be revamped, with five flats created above the foyer entrance.

One project would see improvements to first floor properties in the Newport Market building, while the council plans to provide up to 24 homes in Lower Dock Street.

Plans to renovate a derelict listed building on Cardiff Road near the Royal Gwent Hospital with 15 apartments are also part of the scheme.

In the second year, the council plans for two or three large derelict buildings to be renovated at the north of Commercial Street, creating 93 homes - including 40 flats on the upper floors of a building on the corner of High Street and Skinner Street.

It's a great kick start for the process this city badly needs - that, hand in hand, our city centre businesses fill our empty shop units while people are encouraged to come and live in it.

We all know our city's heart can no longer solely be viewed as a shopping centre, but has to be a European-style mix of stores, non-retail businesses and homes.

And let's hope that symbiotic process will ensure the faith Wildings has shown in the city centre is repaid.

Comments (4)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

11:38am Mon 31 Mar 14

np20 citizen says...

Just a suggestion but I think Wildings being as traditional and quaint as it is, during their revamp should turn their coffee shop/cafe in an old fashioned tea room (like Glanmores in Caerphilly or Ritz) with ladies in black frilly pinnies serving tea in china cups, and tiers of cakes & sandwiches etc, something we don't have in Newport centre. If they then moved the tearoom down to 1st floor front of store opening out onto a roof terrace (looking out onto High Street) I'm sure it would attract a lot of customers through the entire store. I think they need some new ideas to get more customers buying.
Just a suggestion but I think Wildings being as traditional and quaint as it is, during their revamp should turn their coffee shop/cafe in an old fashioned tea room (like Glanmores in Caerphilly or Ritz) with ladies in black frilly pinnies serving tea in china cups, and tiers of cakes & sandwiches etc, something we don't have in Newport centre. If they then moved the tearoom down to 1st floor front of store opening out onto a roof terrace (looking out onto High Street) I'm sure it would attract a lot of customers through the entire store. I think they need some new ideas to get more customers buying. np20 citizen
  • Score: 21

2:29pm Mon 31 Mar 14

sperduti says...

np20 citizen wrote:
Just a suggestion but I think Wildings being as traditional and quaint as it is, during their revamp should turn their coffee shop/cafe in an old fashioned tea room (like Glanmores in Caerphilly or Ritz) with ladies in black frilly pinnies serving tea in china cups, and tiers of cakes & sandwiches etc, something we don't have in Newport centre. If they then moved the tearoom down to 1st floor front of store opening out onto a roof terrace (looking out onto High Street) I'm sure it would attract a lot of customers through the entire store. I think they need some new ideas to get more customers buying.
yes i agree , but why wasnt all this revamping done years ago ? newport has sadly fallen behind in other towns since it was made a city!! but it will always be known as my home town newport , and let s hope the westgate former hotel is going to used again!! plus other fine bulidings which have been left to rot .
[quote][p][bold]np20 citizen[/bold] wrote: Just a suggestion but I think Wildings being as traditional and quaint as it is, during their revamp should turn their coffee shop/cafe in an old fashioned tea room (like Glanmores in Caerphilly or Ritz) with ladies in black frilly pinnies serving tea in china cups, and tiers of cakes & sandwiches etc, something we don't have in Newport centre. If they then moved the tearoom down to 1st floor front of store opening out onto a roof terrace (looking out onto High Street) I'm sure it would attract a lot of customers through the entire store. I think they need some new ideas to get more customers buying.[/p][/quote]yes i agree , but why wasnt all this revamping done years ago ? newport has sadly fallen behind in other towns since it was made a city!! but it will always be known as my home town newport , and let s hope the westgate former hotel is going to used again!! plus other fine bulidings which have been left to rot . sperduti
  • Score: 5

5:07pm Mon 31 Mar 14

Sinibaldi says...

Una roca en el arroyo.

Cuando el sol
desciende en
el sendero una
candida luz
ilumina el llanto
de una rima
gozosa.

Francesco Sinibaldi
Una roca en el arroyo. Cuando el sol desciende en el sendero una candida luz ilumina el llanto de una rima gozosa. Francesco Sinibaldi Sinibaldi
  • Score: 0

11:35pm Tue 1 Apr 14

Lliswerry Man says...

As much as I do not want to sound negative, as Wildings is one of the last known by most, quality stores left, I have to say, that this hope that things will get better, by building yet another concrete jungle or the promise of these jobs from Admiral.... is missing the point still........

I notice the suggestion to attract people from neighbouring areas here to shop... but are you not forgetting those of us who already live here? and ask why we do not shop in the centre?....

Its a global crisis... simple as. People have less to spend. Until that changes, and the working man/woman can afford to find time and money to shop locally , then nothing will change.
What makes an economy are the working people, they earn it, they spend it.... thats what creates jobs, thus businesses thrive. Millionaires with money sat in banks can only do 1 thing... watch the 0000's grown on their accounts.... they can only have 1 haircut, 1 car, 1 watch, etc etc.. whereas the masses, have the real buying power and until they have REAL money to spend........ we are simply going around in circles.

Added to that the Amazon, Ebay, Ebuyer and Appliances Online etc companies, explain just why one would spend more to come into Newport? I have been in twice this week and spent more than 30 mins trying to park, and then if I stay too late in the evening, the town changes into its darker unwelcoming side.
I would like to be able to come in, park "EASILY", walk along clean streets, free of litter, cigarette butts/smoke, chairs all over the pavements from cafes and drunks leaning against pub walls....and people shouting at each other in languages unknown to me.......Its not happening though.

So like many, I would much rather use out of town retail parks, which are managed much better, or shop from the comfort of my home and save money at the sametime, who would'nt.

I still do not understand, if retailers in the centre are NOT doing so well, as Wildings claim... and many others also, then please explain , why almost EVERY parking bay in the centre is always taken... and the streets are full of people ? either they are all walking about aimlessly or retailers are lying to get better deals on rates etc.
As much as I do not want to sound negative, as Wildings is one of the last known by most, quality stores left, I have to say, that this hope that things will get better, by building yet another concrete jungle or the promise of these jobs from Admiral.... is missing the point still........ I notice the suggestion to attract people from neighbouring areas here to shop... but are you not forgetting those of us who already live here? and ask why we do not shop in the centre?.... Its a global crisis... simple as. People have less to spend. Until that changes, and the working man/woman can afford to find time and money to shop locally , then nothing will change. What makes an economy are the working people, they earn it, they spend it.... thats what creates jobs, thus businesses thrive. Millionaires with money sat in banks can only do 1 thing... watch the 0000's grown on their accounts.... they can only have 1 haircut, 1 car, 1 watch, etc etc.. whereas the masses, have the real buying power and until they have REAL money to spend........ we are simply going around in circles. Added to that the Amazon, Ebay, Ebuyer and Appliances Online etc companies, explain just why one would spend more to come into Newport? I have been in twice this week and spent more than 30 mins trying to park, and then if I stay too late in the evening, the town changes into its darker unwelcoming side. I would like to be able to come in, park "EASILY", walk along clean streets, free of litter, cigarette butts/smoke, chairs all over the pavements from cafes and drunks leaning against pub walls....and people shouting at each other in languages unknown to me.......Its not happening though. So like many, I would much rather use out of town retail parks, which are managed much better, or shop from the comfort of my home and save money at the sametime, who would'nt. I still do not understand, if retailers in the centre are NOT doing so well, as Wildings claim... and many others also, then please explain , why almost EVERY parking bay in the centre is always taken... and the streets are full of people ? either they are all walking about aimlessly or retailers are lying to get better deals on rates etc. Lliswerry Man
  • Score: 0

Comments are closed on this article.

click2find

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree