TRADERS in Newport have made a plea to shoppers to come back to the city centre as they prepare to re-open in just two days time, and have said they hope the pandemic has changed people’s habits for the better.

On Friday non-essential business owners were putting finishing touches to their premises, and hope their hard work will pay off in the form of much-needed revenue when they are able to open their doors again on Monday.


At Newport Arcade in between High Street and Cambrian Road, Sonia Lloyd – at The Jewellery Repair Workshop – says she can’t wait to see some old faces again, but says it is vital she sees plenty of new ones too.

South Wales Argus: Sonia Lloyd at her jewellers in Newport Arcade

Sonia Lloyd at her jewellers in Newport Arcade

She was spending Friday finishing off some repairs she had booked in just before Christmas, when trading came to an abrupt halt with just a few hours’ notice.

“It’s been an horrendous time – awful really,” she said. “I’ve never known anything like it. It’s not the finances as such, it’s the lack of people and company on a day-to-day basis that hurts the most.

“I feel as though we’ve been locked away for months. It’ll be almost surreal on Monday.”

It’s the morale of the city that she worries about most, and says it’s crucial shoppers help to restore a positive vibe.

South Wales Argus: Newport City Centre on Friday

Newport City Centre on Friday

“As time goes on, you think ‘is it ever going to be the same again?’,” she said. “I really hope so. We can see a lot of things happening with the market being re-done and the old arcade looking beautiful again with the work going on there.”

She hopes the council will rethink the move to cut off both High Street and Cambrian Road to traffic in the daytime – introduced last summer to aid social distancing and create a café culture for hospitality services.

“I don’t think it’s worked,” she added. “It’s added to the problem during the pandemic, it’s become difficult to get deliveries, and I feel footfall would improve if the roads were reopened.

“People want to park up and pop in for services like ours, or hop off the bus at High Street.”

South Wales Argus: Newport Arcade, where traders say they are desperate for visitors

Newport Arcade, where traders say they are desperate for visitors

Ms Lloyd keeps returning to the need for people to see each other again, and says she feels she wouldn’t have coped through lockdown without her daughter – a carer who has been particularly busy.

Opposite the jewellers is The Pot Café, where sisters Angela Roberts and Linda Dimic say traders in the arcade have worked hard to support each other, as they feel “forgotten” by visitors.

“It’s the mental side of it [restrictions] that’s been the worst thing,” Ms Roberts, who lives alone, said.

South Wales Argus: Angela Roberts

Angela Roberts

“I opened up for takeaways in February, knowing I wasn’t going to make enough money to cover the costs, but just because I needed to do something to keep my mind active.

“Living alone throughout this has been hell, especially when you do such a people-facing job like this.”

She cannot open outdoors from April 26 because she is prohibited from putting tables outside in the arcade.

“I hope the council relaxes those rules,” she said. “It’s heartbreaking having to keep turning people away.”

At that, an elderly man walks in to ask for a table, before walking away when he’s told they’re only able to do takeaways.

“A prime example,” Ms Dimic says. “It is upsetting. People are desperate to come out and socialise – for a tactile experience again.

“This place has been in the family for 25 years. People come in and tell us they remember coming here as a child, or had their first date here. That’s what it's about, not takeaways. We’re still human aren’t we? I hope people remember that.”

South Wales Argus: Angela Roberts

Angela Roberts

Ms Roberts, a self-proclaimed realist, says romantic nostalgia won’t get Newport out of the hole it has found itself in, though – similar to that of most city centres across the UK.

“Since they cut off the roads either side of us, I’ve been worried. We took £1,000 last month – that barely keeps the lights on.”

Last week Falafilo Island on High Street announced its closure, citing the road closure as a reason for their demise.

“Debenhams going is a low, but it’s a chance to rethink and come up with a new plan for Newport based around independent traders.”

She believes, though, that if Debenhams isn’t replaced with a popular store – such as Primark – the city will hit a new low.

“Friars Walk is a white elephant now, they don’t want independent businesses in there. But it’s the independent businesses that I think are the future of this city now, because a lot of the big boys have had it. I really hope it [Friars Walk] isn’t left to turn into an eyesore.”

On Commercial Street, Tracy Stokes, owner of La Belle Femme, says she feels Monday’s reopening has been a long time coming.

South Wales Argus: Tracy Stokes, owner of La Belle Femme

Tracy Stokes, owner of La Belle Femme

“I was all ready to open on March 15 after we were told that would probably be the case, and then we were hit with the bombshell that only hairdressers and barbers were opening,” she explained.

“It’s been a real kick in the teeth, and a frustrating couple of weeks.

“Not only that, but hairdressers and barbers got a restart grant, while we didn’t. It’s been bizarre.

“I feel a lot of the decisions are made based on politics between England and Wales, and we’re just caught in between.”

South Wales Argus: Tracy Stokes, owner of La Belle Femme

Tracy Stokes, owner of La Belle Femme

Small business owners received a one-off payment of £4,000 last month, and will not receive anything else in Wales until after the Senedd Elections on May 6. But Ms Stokes says the money has not been enough to cover bills.


It’s been a particularly difficult period for Ms Stokes, who has spent eight months of the last year closed. Four of those months were spent working at Asda, where she says what she saw added to her frustrations.

“There was no such thing as social distancing there and there isn’t in the supermarkets now,” she said.

“It’s difficult for traders to see these big businesses taking millions off the back of this, while our high street stores are dropping like flies. Especially when I’m convinced we’re offering a much safer service than what these big stores are.

South Wales Argus: La Belle Femme off Commercial Street

La Belle Femme off Commercial Street

“If the government isn’t going to help us, then it’s on shoppers to come and support us and make sure we still have a high street. Without us, there is no city centre.

“I’ve been in retail for 40 years and I remember when Newport was thriving. There was no internet or online shopping, and it was great.

“I hope people realise how difficult the situation has become.”

There is reason to be positive though, she says.

“The market in particular seems to be a good thing, and there are many empty buildings being turned into flats,” she added. “That’s all great – but we still need businesses in the town centre.

“I’m hopeful what we’ve been through has changed people’s attitudes. Even younger people have come and said they can’t wait to come in on Monday. That makes me really hopeful.”

A spokesman for the Welsh Government said: "We have made unprecedented levels of funding available to support Welsh businesses during these incredibly challenging times, with a full 12-month rates holiday package for those in the hardest hit sectors. To date we have provided more than £2 billion in business support during the pandemic, safeguarding 165,000 Welsh jobs.

“Our comprehensive package of financial support for Welsh businesses will continue throughout April and into May. Many businesses will already have received their full share of the £180 million funding announced in mid-March upfront to see them through until May, for others, including in the hospitality and tourism sector, cash grants will continue to be paid during April as applications are confirmed.

South Wales Argus: Commercial Street, Newport, on Friday

Commercial Street, Newport, on Friday

South Wales Argus: Commercial Street, Newport, on Friday

Commercial Street, Newport, on Friday

“Businesses will therefore see no interruption in the flow of financial support, as we move cautiously to relax public health restrictions.

“Another £200 million in additional support for business has already been earmarked in the Final Budget 2021-22. Ministers have had a constructive meeting with representatives from the hospitality sector and Welsh Government officials will work with them on options for a further support package to be put to the new Government following May’s Senedd election.”