THE Debenhams store in Newport's Friars Walk shopping centre still stands empty, one year after the firm shut its doors nationwide.

However, Newport City Council has revealed that more information on the future of the site may be available in the coming weeks.

The Debenhams brand and online business is still trading under the management of new owners Boohoo.

South Wales Argus:

However, most of the former Debenhams stores remain empty across the country, including the flagship store in Newport's Friars Walk - one of the largest retail spaces in the city.

The final day of the store’s closing down sale ended early, at around 11.30am on May 4 last year.

It was low key end for what had been the flagship Friars Walk shopping centre store, which had opened with much fanfare on November 12, 2015.

"Friars Walk, like most of the city centre, is in private ownership and filling such a large space is challenging as the retail climate has significantly changed in recent years as a result of the impact of the pandemic and online shopping," a Newport City Council statement said.

South Wales Argus:

Despite these challenges, the council say it is "working with partners on potential opportunities for the building".

It has remained coy on any details at this time, but a spokesman said they "hope more information will be available in the coming weeks and months".

They said: "The council works in partnership with all stakeholders in the city centre, including the business improvement district organisation Newport Now, as its future is not about one individual business or operator."

They stressed that, despite the ongoing uncertainty with the Debenhams store, there had been a number of success stories in the city in recent times.

"It has been pleasing to see a number of new businesses opening in the smaller units in Friars Walk, and across the city centre including the newly reopened Newport Market, offering a good mix of independents alongside the High Street chains," they said.

South Wales Argus:

"The council is doing everything in our power to support local businesses and increase that footfall.

"This includes grants to new and expanding SMEs (small and medium enterprises) and a unique rate relief scheme on top of the Welsh government one which means that many city centre business will only pay 25 per cent of their business rates this year."

Kevin Ward, manager of the Newport Now Business Improvement District (BID), said: "That an alternative use has yet to be found for the former Debenhams building is, of course, disappointing - but that is also the case for the vast majority of the 118 towns and cities across the UK that lost their Debenhams last year.

"The BID is aware of discussions and negotiations taking place involving a number of parties and we hope those talks will come to fruition in the coming months.

"It is important, however, to focus on the positive developments taking place in the city centre rather than dwell on the past - the hugely successful reopening of Newport Market, the launch of the Mercure Hotel, a new leisure centre and further education campus both in the pipeline, and increasing numbers of independent businesses starting up.

"That positive approach is so important in supporting the 600+ businesses we represent in the city centre because a relentless tide of negativity, particularly on social media, does none of them any favours.

"In the next few weeks, we will be giving people with ideas for new businesses the chance to run pop-up shops in the city centre, and we will also be launching a Night Ambassadors service to support the evening and night-time economy at the weekends."

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