MORE than five million shoppers have visited Newport's Friars Walk since it opened to the public six months ago.

The long-awaited £117 million shopping centre opened on November 11 last year and has seen a steady 200,000 visitors each week since Christmas.

With 26 shops, 12 restaurants, a cinema and bowling alley, 87 per cent of the units in the complex are in use with owners Queensbury Real Estate pledging several new retailers before Christmas this year.

The centre developers are also in discussion with local retailers about units in Upper Dock Street.

Stuart Harris, commercial director and co-founder of Queensberry Real Estate said: "We are pleased with how the first six months have gone, Friars Walk has helped to transform Newport city centre.

“Footfall and trade remain on target and it’s encouraging to see interest in the centre remains high.

“Since we’ve opened last November we’ve continued to strengthen our retail and leisure offer further with a number of new store, restaurant and leisure openings.”

The centre first opened with 23 shops, eight restaurants and an eight-screen cinema.

Thousands attended the opening day, which saw then leader of Newport City Council councillor Bob Bright cut the velvet ribbon as well as a blessing from the Bishop of Monmouth, the Right Rev Richard Pain.

More than 300,000 shoppers visited in the first week and the centre recently hit the five million mark.

Along with the brands, independent retailers such as Crafted snapped up a unit at the beginning of April.

The store offers work from artists, designers and local businesses from within a 25-mile radius of Newport.

Manager of the store Tom Evans, 36, said: "It feels good to be here, it feels good to mix local products and designers amongst the High Street brands.

“It adds something a little bit different to the city centre and is unique as well.

“I think it has brought the focus back to the city centre and has brought pride back to Newport.

“The leisure aspect of it has been really big for us as there wasn’t really many restaurants to choose from for families."

Shopper Jonathan Davies, who now lives in Risca after living in Newport for most of his life, thinks although Friars Walk is good for the city, it is still too small.

He said: “Friars Walk has been a definite improvement on the dreary, quiet High Street that summed up shopping in Newport. The restaurants give a really good variety of places to eat in Newport for the first time in a long time.

“But it has its limitations.

“When my fiancée and I go to Friars Walk, we often feel like we need to go elsewhere as well because of the lack of shops, and the size of the ones that are there.”

Another shopper Shazna Hossain, of Newport, said she thinks Friars Walk is a brilliant place to shop.

“Its way better than it was before, I come here often and go to Debenhams and JD.

“My friend is also planning to open a stall soon as well, so I like it here more than the town centre.”

Robin Hall, managing director of financial services business Kymin, of Bridge Street, Newport, said: “Friars Walk six months on, certainly seems to be making a difference. As a regular visitor to the city centre there is a noticeable increase in the amount of people, especially at lunchtimes.

“It is great to be able to shop and have a meal in centre of Newport again and the new complex has, I think, restored some pride in the city.

“The next six months will be interesting and I’m hoping to see more retailers come back not only to Friars Walk but both the High Street and Commercial Street.”