Newport traders set for tough year - business leader
NEWPORT Chamber of Trade president, Alan Edwards, said it was going to be another tough year for traders in the city centre but the chamber would do all it could to support traders.
Mr Edwards, who owns Vacara’s fish and chips, said: "Until the new Queensbury development comes it is going to be tough for everyone."
He said the chamber had a number of schemes it wanted to try and champion to help ease the pain though and urged traders to support them.
Mr Edwards, said: "We want to try and lobby to get business rates lowered. I think this will be easier once the new development begins.
"But we are very seriously looking at setting up a Business Improvement District. We’ve got a committee meeting for the chamber of trade tomorrow night and at the end of the month we will have meetings. One session in the day one in the evening where we would encourage as many traders as possible to come and find out about it and have their say.
"People have got to help themselves and come and talk."
Mr Edwards was disappointed Marks & Spencer had pulled out of the city centre and said he had written to the chief executive of the company six weeks ago asking him to keep at least a food hall in the city centre but had not had a reply.
He said once the new development was up and running he believed many of the stores heading out to the Spytty retail park would want to have a city centre presence again.
Mr Edwards was equally strident on complaints that Newport was turning into a city of charity shops.
"I don’t think there are too many charity shops in Newport," he said. "I always think it is a bit snobby to criticise the number of charity shops we have, I don’t think it’s embarrassing.
"People are obviously buying things in them and some of their window displays are brilliant. Sir Terry Matthews came in to open St Annes and he knows a thing or two about business."
ARGUS COMMENT: Newport business leader is a realist
ALAN Edwards is the kind of go-ahead leader needed by Newport’s city centre traders.
The president of Newport Chamber of Trade, an organisation that has the potential to wield considerable power in the city, talked to the Argus today about his hopes and fears for this new year.
Mr Edwards is realistic about the next 12 months. He knows times will continue to be tough for the majority of city centre businesses, and particularly for independent retailers.
But he is not pessimistic.
He wants to lobby the Welsh Government for lower business rates, particularly once work on the new Friars Walk development begins.
He wants traders to look seriously at the voucher scheme suggested by this newspaper to help cushion the blow of parking charges being introduced by the city council.
And he wants to set up a Business Improvement District in the city centre.
Such schemes involve traders paying a small levy, based on the size of their business, with the money used to pay for initiatives requested by traders themselves.
This newspaper is supportive of all Mr Edwards’ aims and we are keen to see them come to fruition. A BID, for instance, could transform the city centre.
One of his quotes in our report today is vital. “People (traders) have got to help themselves,” he says, and he is absolutely correct.