On November 12, 2015, the fortunes of Newport took a turn for the better when the doors of the much anticipates Friars Walk retails and leisure scheme finally opened its doors to the public.
Thousands were there to see it happen and it is estimated that during its first year of business the £110m scheme by Queensberry Real Estate would have welcomed 10.5 million visitors.
So, what do the people of the city think of Friars Walk and the city’s fortunes one year on…

Zep Bellavia, Harding Evans Solicitors, Newport
Friar’s Walk has delivered exactly what Newport needs, a retail and entertainment focal point for all of the regeneration that has been taking place here for some time. The Argus reported that 5,000,000 shoppers visited Friar’s Walk in the first six months, highlighting its importance to Newport. It will be great to see Friar’s Walk and its City Centre neighbouring areas at full occupancy, hopefully very soon as we continue to demonstrate that Newport deserves to capture our consumer spend and that the customer experience will continue to develop positively.

Fiona Weaver, a surveyor with Hutchings and Thomas Chartered Surveyors, Newport
The redevelopment of the old John Frost Square was very long overdue and although Newport lost the Chartist Mural on the way, the new Friars Walk shopping complex represents a confidence in the city which was much needed. But how do you measure success? Footfall has now moved from one part of the city to another. A stroll through the indoor market reveals more empty units than ever despite the re-introduction of a reduced bus service. The retail and commercial centre of Newport has to encompass more than Friars Walk but there is no doubt that it projects the confidence needed to push forward with other nearby sites such as Olympia House, new office space at Station Quarter, the former Sainsbury’s development site and the possible redevelopment of Crown Buildings. There is no doubt the development of offices within the city centre will help the city economy and increase footfall in High Street, Commercial Street, Cambrian Road and Friars Walk. Rates revaluation? Some Friars Walk rateable values have increased but some in Kingsway have decreased?

Robin Hall, managing director of Kymin Financial Planners, Newport
Friars Walk, I can’t believe it is nearly a year since it opened, where has that time gone? I think that the Friars Walk development has been a great success and will be a catalyst for further development of our city. At long last we are able to find a great variety of retailers both national chains and local businesses. To have the likes of Debenhams, Next, M&S Food and River Island and local businesses such as Crafted and Jeffries Fine Jewellers in the heart of the city is great. Some retailers which haven’t come to the city yet, such as HMV and Paperchase, however would be a good addition. The former BHS store in Commercial Street and the former Westgate Hotel would be ideal for a major retailer such as House of Fraser or even a small John Lewis but perhaps that is wishful thinking on my part. The cinema and bowling goes hand in hand with the restaurant quarter which allows visitors to shop, eat and spend leisure time all in one place. It was inevitable that a development of this size would create some empty units within the traditional shopping areas of the city. However, with a reduction in business rates coming next year and co-ordination of Newport City Council and Newport BID let’s hope that we can continue to attract more retailers to further enhance the city’s offering. I would like to see further enhancements in the market quarter and the iconic arcades off High Street and continue to encourage these areas for the independent businesses. More joined up thinking is still required to encourage more visitors to the city so that people can enjoy the retail and restaurant experience along with sport at the nearby Rodney Parade and Newport Centre. As ever parking and traffic congestion is an issue, it is disappointing that we haven’t invested in a Park and Ride scheme along the riverbank or even temporarily at the old Sainsbury’s store. However, Newport has benefitted greatly from Friars Walk and other recent developments and long may this continue.

Kirsten Tuck Partner, at Everett Tomlin Lloyd and Pratt Solicitors, Newport
The first time I visited Friars Walk it took me a while to get my bearings. The town had been transformed. Many of the shops are different from those in Cwmbran and I think appeal to a younger market. In my view the biggest successes have been the new leisure facilities such as the cinema, and also the range of restaurants and which are attracting visitors into the city in the day and the evening. I believe it has rejuvenated Newport and given it a more positive and forward looking feel. With big retailing names and large restaurant chains opening up in the centre, hopefully other retailers and restaurateurs will have the confidence to follow suit.

Stephen Price, PR and comms officer, Monmouth-shire Building Society, Newport
Friars Walk has dramatically improved the city centre and reputation of Newport to people who live and work here, although I think it may take a while for the rest of the UK to catch up with our opinion. It’s easy to forget, but previously it was difficult finding a place to meet friends and colleagues after work or on the weekend and the choice of restaurants and shops is superb considering how little there was before. There is still a lot to be done, but nothing happens overnight and I’d like to see shops at the far end of Commercial Street being encouraged to contract and fill up the empty shops in the centre which will benefit everyone. My favourite store has to be Crafted which offers items made within the local area, supporting local crafts people and adding some uniqueness to what could otherwise just be any other city centre offering. 

Jason Williams, director, Specsavers Newport
Friars Walk has played an important role in attracting more people to the city centre; footfall is higher and I’d go as far to say that people look happier when they’re shopping. The development has given the people of Newport something to be really proud of. And as we’re seeing increased footfall in Newport, it is a timely opportunity for retailers to occupy some of the vacant units on Commercial Street and High Street. My favourite outlet in Friars Walk is Patisserie Valerie. That being said, I do have to exercise a lot of self-control to not have one of the sweet treats when I pick up my morning coffee!

Noel Davies, managing director, Pop Box Media
We’ve been workly closely with some of the brands at Friars Walk since its launch and it’s been great helping support the growth of South Wales’ newest retail and entertainment destination. The city and wider region desperately needed a new venue to attract shoppers and foodies to Newport and Frairs Walk is doing just that. It’s been a really encouraging start, but I still think there is a lot of growth to come. To help achieve this I’d like to see the owners of the development pushing it more in towns like Abergavenny where there is still an affiliation to Cardiff and using platforms like film to engage with these target audiences.