WHEN the Friars Walk shopping centre opened, six years ago today, there was much fanfare around the city centre's newest retail destination.

Street dancers and live music entertained the crowds of people who turned up for the occasion, fashion designer Julien Macdonald opened the flagship Debenhams store, and so many people came to catch a glimpse of the new shopping centre that there was traffic chaos on the main routes into the city centre.

Six years on, Friars Walk continues to serve as the main shopping hub in the centre of Newport, although there have been some big changes there – not least the departure of Debenhams this spring, when the brand's stores were closed down nationwide.

Other big names have also gone: Topshop, Schuh and Tiger have all left in the past two years, while the Cineworld cinema – on the other side of John Frost Square – has lain dormant since the height of the pandemic.

In other ways, Friars Walk has stayed largely the same as when it opened in 2015. Fashion retailers Next, H&M and River Island remain there, while the centre's offering of restaurants – mainly on the lower level – is mostly unchanged from the initial line-up from six years ago.

Take a look at the original Friars Walk store directory from 2015:

South Wales Argus: Picture: Friars Walk (from 2015)Picture: Friars Walk (from 2015)

Drago Lounge, Nando's and Wagamama are among those original fixtures still in Friars Walk, and although some others have departed, they have soon been replaced. Meat specialists Smokd, for example, are a recent addition to the centre's diverse food offering.

To mark the sixth anniversary of the opening, we asked our readers on social media for their thoughts on the past, and future, of the shopping centre. Which former shops did they miss the most, and which retailers would they like to see come into Friars Walk?

Many of the readers who responded said they would like to see more fashion retailers setting up in the shopping centre.

Primark was mentioned several times – the chain already has a shop in Newport city centre (in Commercial Street) but readers including Mica Powell said it was time for a bigger store in the city.

"I think they should move the Primark store and have a massive Cardiff style one in the Debenhams unit," she said.

The future of the old Debenhams store, which is one of the biggest retail spaces in the city centre, was brought up by many of our readers, including Deb Parry and Janice Walker, who also said the site could make a good destination for Primark.

South Wales Argus: Fashion designer Julien Macdonald opens the Debenhams store in Friars Walk, Newport, in November 2015.Fashion designer Julien Macdonald opens the Debenhams store in Friars Walk, Newport, in November 2015.

Other suggestions for the site included a John Lewis department store and - in quite a radical change of direction for the space - an IKEA. The Swedish furniture chain's nearest shops are currently in Cardiff Bay or on the edge of Bristol.

But Debenhams wouldn't necessarily have to be replaced with one large retailer, said Rhiannon Combstock.

"[It] was such a large store, you could fit multiple shops inside surely," she suggested.

Meanwhile, other retailers that were proposed by our readers included cosmetics chain Lush, a larger M&S department store to compliment the current food shop in John Frost Square, and women's clothing store Yours.

There were also calls for more independent businesses to be featured in Friars Walk, which currently houses non-chain firms like Sin City Comics and The Port, a hub for local arts and crafts.

"We need some local businesses within there to help the local economy," Twitter user Keiron said.

South Wales Argus: Some of our reader suggestions for shops they wanted to see in Friars Walk in future. Graphic made at jasondavies.comSome of our reader suggestions for shops they wanted to see in Friars Walk in future. Graphic made at jasondavies.com

Many readers also suggested parking in Friars Walk should be made free, as a way of attracting more shoppers. It currently costs £1 for the first hour in the centre's car park, rising to £1.50 for two hours.

Anthony Wilkins said the lack of free parking turned shoppers away from the city centre and towards out-of-town retail parks instead.

"It's free parking, easier to get to, with all you need in one place," he said. "Why go into town centres?"

While Debenhams stands empty at one end of Friars Walk, the doors to Cineworld have been locked for months, and several of our readers said they missed having a cinema in the city centre.

Other former shops that our readers said they missed included Tiger, the Body Shop, and toy retailer Hawkin's Bazaar.