Covid-19 will speed up city centre change tenfold, warns local expert

Businesses offering experiences will be on the up, with retail taking a heavy blow because of Covid-19 governmental restrictions

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People’s relationship with the city centre could drastically change due to Covid-19, with the retail sector set to “contract”, according to a local business expert.

Adrian Field, executive director of local business membership organisation FOR Cardiff, described his uncertainty of how all city centre businesses, including the 1,000 represented by his organisation, could continue to prosper.

“I think in terms of retail we all know the challenges that were faced before Covid,” he said, “the challenges of out-of-town offerings and with the internet.” Adrian continued, “What Covid has done is speed up the changing face of the high street over the course of ten years in one year.”

What Covid has done is speed up the changing face of the high street over the course of ten years in one year”

A national problem

Adrian, along with two other south Wales business improvement district leaders, wrote an open letter to the Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales, in which they urged the Welsh Government to consider “the bleak economic landscape” a firebreak lockdown could leave.

Three south Wales business improvement districts (FOR Cardiff, Newport Now and Swansea BID) highlighted the following concerns in their open letter to the Welsh Government:

  • Economic uncertainty could be the “final nail in the coffin” for businesses
  • They need to be told when businesses will be fully free to trade again
  • They need clarification on what happens now as it appears the Job Support Scheme is not to be brought forward by the UK Government

The impact of working from home has been hard hitting, and Adrian confirmed city centre businesses, which normally benefit from the presence of office workers, are feeling the heat.

“I think [there’s] a bit of frustration by businesses that the Welsh Government are looking at trying to get 30% of people who would normally be working in an office to work from home,” he added. 

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What’s next?

Contemplating the future beyond Covid-19, Adrian predicts there will be more experiential types of businesses, which could be achieved through an increase of pop-up shops. Initially, however, we can expect “empty units that need to be repurposed.”

He also expresses concern for Cardiff’s famous nightlife, which could take a bit longer to bounce back.

Despite great commercial uncertainty, FOR Cardiff will continue its aims in making the city centre a welcoming, vibrant and influential place.