A TRADER in Abergavenny and head of the business community in the town has called on the Welsh Government to provide better clarity for independent shopkeepers moving forwards, saying traders are “tired of surprises”.

Lucy Hywel, who owns That’s Lovely That on Frogmore Street, says since voicing her concerns over a lack of a clear plan around when non-essential businesses would be able to re-open prior to last Friday’s announcement, she’s been inundated with messages from fellow traders who feel the same.

South Wales Argus: Lucy Hywel, owner of That's Lovely That on Frogmore Street, says traders have had enough of surprises and being treated like children. Picture: Lucy Hywel

Lucy Hywel, owner of That's Lovely That on Frogmore Street, says traders have had enough of surprises and being treated like children. Picture: Lucy Hywel

Ms Hywel, who is also co-founder of the Y Fenni Business Community, is now gearing up for an April 12 opening, almost a month later than expected, and said traders in the town centre had been preparing for a March 15 opening date, which had been mooted.

She also expressed frustration over a lack of a proper funding plan to help traders come out of lockdown, despite the Welsh Government saying it would inject £150 million into helping businesses get back up and running from Monday (March 15).

On Friday, the First Minister announced new funding as part of the next phase of the Economic Resilience Fund (ERF), with most hospitality, leisure, tourism and non-essential retail traders eligible for either £4,000 or £5,000 depending on their rateable value – payable this week.

Reacting to the news, Ms Hywel said traders could have been saved a lot of stress if they were not “drip fed information”.

“Friday’s announcement came as a surprise, because we were expecting to be able to open from March 15,” she said.

“That expectation builds because of a lack of transparency.

“No-one knew what funding we were getting to start back up, and that’s still not clear because that few thousand pounds will probably last until the end of the month. What will happen come April? We don’t know.


“It’s a new tax year and a stressful financial period for traders, so that clarity needs to be there.

“We’ve only just found out that we won’t have to pay business rates for the next financial year, days before they were due to start again, and I could only find that out on Twitter. Why aren’t we being sent emails about that?

“Most of Wales’s town centres are made up of small independent high streets, and considering we’re in 2021, it’s surprising we don’t have an authoritative go-to source that tells us exactly what the plan is.

“From the traders I speak to every day, I get the feeling people wouldn’t blame the government if those plans had to be altered. We just would like some communication and a fluid plan.”

She believes Abergavenny – Monmouthshire’s most popular destination shopping centre for visitors – will be particularly hit by the ‘stay local’ rule, which was also only told to traders on Friday.

She says traders in Abergavenny and across Wales “felt like children” in the build up to Friday’s announcement.

“We’re told to shut up and be quiet until we’re told otherwise, and it’s been like that for a year now,” she said. “You’d have thought after a year there would be better communication.

“If we’d have been told April 12, we’d have had no issue with that. We know it’s better we get it right and do not risk a third wave.

“I do not believe that when ministers got around the table on Thursday that was the first time they were deciding on these dates. All we’re asking is to be kept updated on those discussions.”

She is determined to move forwards regardless of a lack of communication, and says she feels the town is starting to regain its “mojo”.

“I do feel a spirit and a buzz coming again, which had been lost a little,” she added. “It’s great to get that sense of normality back a little.”

A Welsh Government spokesman said: “We recognise everyone wants certainty to be able to plan for the future and that businesses want to be open and trading. That’s why the first minister has set out a plan to bring Wales out of alert level 4 lockdown.

South Wales Argus: Lucy Hywel, owner of That's Lovely That on Frogmore Street, says traders have had enough of surprises and being treated like children

Lucy Hywel

“In the last few months, we have made huge strides in rolling out vaccines, but faced with new variants of coronavirus, we cannot provide as much certainty and predictability as we would like. We cannot move directly and fully into alert level three in one step. We will move gradually, assessing the impact as we go along. As a first step, we will consider the restrictions around non-essential retail and close contact services, and the possibility of re-opening self-contained accommodation for Easter.

“Our package of business support is the most generous in the UK and we are actively reviewing our options for providing further support for firms aligned to the review process and have active planning in place to extend if required.”

Last week traders questioned claims the Welsh Government is offering the best funding packages.

The Welsh Government says eligible businesses in Wales have been able to claim up to £16,000 of support since December. But in a social media group of more than 300 traders in Wales, no one came forward to say they’d received more than £10,000.