HUNDREDS of people were eyeing up the bargains in the city centre yesterday at the opening of what is thought to be Wales’ biggest charity shop.

Billionaire Sir Terry Matthews, owner of the fivestar Celtic Manor Resort, opened the new store in Commercial Street which will raise funds in aid of Friends of St Anne’s Hospice.

Overall manager Laura Buchanan-Smith took on the shop, which is in the old Next clothes shop building, after being approached by the landlord of the building.

The shop building covers two floors and sells clothes, accessories, bric-a-brac, furniture and books. Smarter clothing including bridalwear, dinner suits and vintage clothing will also be sold. Stock is provided through donations and volunteers will staff the shop.

The move comes after the body blows of the loss of a number of chain stores in the city centre - including Next, H&M and the impending loss of Marks & Spencer in January - and urgent calls from hard-pressed independent traders for more outlets to attract footfall and help them survive.

Traders are particularly concerned about the next three years in the city centre ahead of the multi-million redevelopment at Friar’s Walk which has Debenhams as an anchor store.

Prior to the opening, day manager at the shop, Jonathan Hodson told reporters he thought Newport could be brought forward as “a charity shop city”.

When asked if he thought more charity shops should be bought to Newport, Sir Terry didn’t give a direct answer replying: “This is the biggest charity shop in Wales. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I think it’s all good.”

He added: “I have known Laura a long time and encouraged her to do this. She is like dynamite.

“I have been observing things and Newport is coming along well. I feel very good about it.”

Ms Buchanan-Smith, who stood as an Independent candidate for the Allt-yr-yn ward in this year’s council elections, already runs two St Anne’s Hospice charity shops in Newport.

She said: “It will bring more customers into town and is something different.

Today has been fantastic. Sir Terry was brilliant.”

Alex Adams, 17, is one of the volunteers at the shop after he has been volunteering with the charity since the summer to gain extra work experience.

He said: “The shop is great and it’s great to see all the people. Laura is marvellous.”

The shop will be open from Monday to Saturday from 9am until 5pm.

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