Just one of many closed shops on Albany Road

Albany Road emerges from firebreak with 14 empty shops

Business owners worried that further lockdowns will lure more customers away from Roath

PEOPLE wandering down one of the most significant shopping streets in Roath will now find 14 shops that have been left vacant and are yet to be replaced.

Ben Francis, policy chair of the Federation of Small Businesses said: “Businesses are dealing with a more challenging landscape than we have seen in some time.”

On Monday, many businesses opened for the first time in 17 days after the Welsh firebreak ended. However, there is still concern about any future lockdown.

Faith Atwell, who has owned a small business in Roath, Passion, for 16 years is concerned that there is already talk of a Christmas or post-Christmas lockdown.

“Once we’re closed, we have no customers but the bills don’t stop. Future lockdowns will really affect business in a negative way,” she said.

Covid-19 cases in Cardiff have dropped slightly since the start of the firebreak but cases still remain higher than at the beginning of October according the Public Health Wales.

First Minister Mark Drakeford believes Wales should be able to get through Christmas without another firebreak but wouldn’t speculate about what could come after.

One of the biggest issues for local business owners is that rent levels in the area have fallen to match with the economic difficulties caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Commercial Property Price Index says that retail property prices have fallen by 20% in the last 12 months but incomes are falling at a significant rate too which could impact the ability for new independent businesses to rent premises.

A current retail property available on Albany Road has rent that costs £23,500 per year for around 1,000 square foot.

This is before business rates that are placed on top of the businesses. A business of that size could expect to pay another £13,800 per year in business rates. For many, this is a hurdle too large to reach over during a pandemic.

With high rents and business rates, many are worried that it could lead to the demise of independent shops in the area.

Ms Atwell said: “We are losing a lot of independent businesses and could in the future only have chains. That would be boring and awful. We could be stuck with only options that are void of all personality and passion.”

For businesses that have been able to stay open so far, Business Wales is providing special financial support and grants for businesses that are struggling in the pandemic, which will provide a huge benefit to local businesses staying open.

As part of their “economic resilience fund” created for the pandemic, businesses that were forced to close during the lockdown will get £1,000 of support if they have a value under £12,000 and a £5,000 payment for those under £51,000 in value.

Ben Francis said he hoped it would enable businesses to plan ahead and help secure their future into 2021 and beyond.

“Support from the Welsh government has been critical to help firms deal with the disruption and uncertainty brought about by two local lockdowns,” he said.

Ms Atwell is not sure the support is enough.

“The support does really help but it is nowhere near enough to over the losses made this year with all the disruption,” she said.

“There remains little incentive to start a business during a pandemic and we will see how long it will take the area to recover from its financial impact. Albany Road may look vastly different after this is all over.”