“The Future Of Swansea City Centre – Oriel Science Says: It’s Not Just About Retail, It’s About Experiences, Reasons To Visit And Spend Time In The City Centre”

“The future of Swansea city centre – Oriel Science says: it’s not just about retail, it’s about experiences, reasons to visit and spend time in the city centre”

A Changing High Street

Across the UK, there are multiple pressures for the High Streets in towns and cities, and Swansea is no exception. The biggest shift has been the astronomical rise of online shopping with online-only retailers like Amazon and big-name High-Street brands such as John Lewis catering to an online audience. High Street shops are becoming ‘show rooms’ for the online shops where customers may browse in store before purchasing online, resulting in a loss of revenue for stores.

This issue is compounded by the fact that today’s young people are now looking to spend their disposable income on experiences rather than material possessions. An extension of the social media age where young people want to be seen as living exciting lives which can be shared on social media channels.

In addition to the above, high Business Rates, underlying social issues resulting in anti-social behaviour, and unavailability of centralised parking have all led to a further strain on High Street businesses.

Recent analysis by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and the Local Data Company (LDC) found that approximately 16 stores closed their doors every day in the first half of 2019 while only nine opened, resulting in a net decline of 1,234 stores on Britain’s top 500 high streets.

The Future of the High Street

So what is being done to cater for this shift in shopping habits in Swansea’s city centre? A lot, and there are significant plans. As Russell Greenslade, Chief Executive of the Swansea Business Improvement District (BID) states, “While there are a number of very real challenges, I have never seen or felt as much optimism for the future of Swansea City Centre as we are experiencing at the moment.”

These significant plans include the following:

• As part of the £1.3 billion City Deal funded regeneration of Swansea City Centre:
o a 100,000 square foot digital village for tech businesses on the Kingsway;
o A digital indoor arena in SA1 alongside residential and parking.
• New accommodation blocks to house more than 1,300 students are being built next to Swansea train station, set to be populated by 2021.
• Pedestrianisation of Wind Street which should help the development of businesses located there.
• Following on from the £30m investment by Swansea-based Coastal Housing to create the Urban Village which has revitalised the east-side of High Street with new shops, businesses and homes, Coastal now plan to expand further up the High Street, to create links between The Strand, Orchard Street and High Street with Urban Village Phase 3. Phase 3 will bring further new commercial, retail and residential development to the High Street.

In addition to the above plans, Swansea’s city centre has already seen the following changes as it gradually evolves in to a destination that has a cultural aspect and is far more than a shopping centre:

o A rolling programme of annual events and attractions throughout the City Centre to boost all-important foot flow, such as Swansea Pride, the Green Dragon Electric Vehicle Rally and Show, and the Swansea Fringe Festival.
o Creative ventures such as Cinema & Co in Castle Street and The Hyst in High Street.
o A broad mix of food outlets representing different cultures with everything from Portuguese pastries to Romanian delicacies, Mexican, Turkish, Italian, Indian, and Polish food and goods.

These major steps forward to regenerate and future-proof Swansea’s High Street have been recognised by the Great British High Street Awards 2019, where Swansea’s High Street has been shortlisted in the “Champion High Street Award”. This is in recognition of the work that is being done by multiple partners, including Swansea BID, the police, Swansea Council, Swansea’s businesses, and landlords like Coastal Housing.

Oriel Science in Swansea’s City Centre

In light of Swansea’s changing city centre culture, Oriel Science, Swansea University’s science exhibition centre, is planning on setting up a permanent home in the city centre. A space where the public will interact with inspiring and creative exhibits showcasing the University’s cutting-edge research, and where young people can experience science, technology and innovation, and be inspired to broaden their horizons. To find out more about Oriel Science’s plans, please see the following video: http://orielscience.co.uk/partnershipopportunities/.

If you would like to partner with Swansea University to continue the transformation of Swansea’s city centre, please contact Oriel Science on 01792-604140 or orielscience@swansea.ac.uk. Together we can inspire a new generation of thinkers!