Hello there. Hope you’re feeling well today.It may be an odd way to start this post. But bare with me. It’s always been my belief that most men do not buy clothes on impulse but buy it on perceived need or, as in may case being nagged at by wife, teenage daughter and mother. What occurred to me on hearing the news of the widespread store closure programme being proposed by the House Of Fraser group is that in terms of both genders you can make that logic on visiting a city centre.
House Of Fraser currently have two stores in all of Wales. Both are scheduled for closure. The point about the Cardiff store (which from now on I’ll call by it’s name, Howell’s)was that it is a massive Department store and one of the key retail landmarks of the city centre for 153 years. However if the store cutting proposals come to pass it will be 154 and out.
The thing though is this. House Of Fraser are still keeping a number of it’s stores. So you ask why Cardiff was unable to be amongst them? Well of course their troubles have been well documented in the past twenty four hours. The internet, failure to modernise, out of town shopping, the decline in the “department store” concept generally (To think in a couple of years the Sit Com Are You Being Served might be used as a historical record) it’s all been rammed down our throats.
But to focus specifically on the Howells store it struck me that if you don’t actually work there how many people from South Wales visit Cardiff on a whim? The last time I visited it was going to Cardiff Castle during Easter because my daughter hadn’t been before. The last time wife/daughter went was to see Disney On Ice (no idea why..both of them are old enough to know better). The time we visited before that was Christmas shopping, once during that period, looking for ideas and it was generally a wasted trip.
The point comes back though to the fact that we don’t go the city centre on impulse. Car parking charges/getting a space is one reason. But the other, as I’ve explained before, is that the centre of the capital city of Wales (including St Mary Street) is becoming tired looking with closed down shops, homeless people wandering in more numbers than I’ve seen them before and despite whatever gloss the St David’s Shopping Centres might seek to show a general look of quiet despair.
The closure of such a large store like Howells will make that situation worse. Especially if there is nobody able to replace it. As I’ve said before especially with regard to Bridgend Town few things blights a town more than an empty shop which will still show you memories of what it once was in happier times.
And it is here the council could have acted to attract more people to the city centre. Cut the carparking fees. Spruce up the area. Make people want to come to, let’s not forget it, the capital city of Wales. More people would bring the centre more money and that would have included Howells. But no this didn’t happen. And whilst I’ve no idea as to whether being more proactive in revitalising the City Centre would have saved Howells. It wouldn’t have done any harm
Cardiff City Centre is not yet the urban tragedy that is Bridgend Town. But the decline of a community doesn’t start dramatically. Only when a big shock emerges do people step back, see the bigger picture and realise the problem in front of them. You would like to think that for Cardiff Council this might be that shock that moves them into action.
Cardiff Council I’ve written before have been trying to lord it over their Vale Of Glmorgan counterpart. In particular the statement by Labour Councillor Russell Goodway that Barry Town was a town without a purpose. If the problems continue councillor Goodway might be receiving calls from Barry Town councillors asking whether aside from the tourist season and sports fixtures in the Principality Stadium the centre of Cardiff has a purpose.
Those would be conversations I’d like to listen to.
Until the next time.