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Independent shops continue to be the backbone of our high streets

Independent shops are helping to rejuvenate high streets in Wales a new study has found, with small high street businesses and shoppers alike increasingly optimistic about the future of their local high street.

Marking the launch of the Government-run Great British High Street Awards 2019, in proud partnership with Visa, new research commissioned by Visa shows that, across the UK, 34,511 independent high street shops opened for business last year, up 4.5% on 2017.

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Meanwhile, in Wales, it was found that the high street is the favoured destination for Welsh retailers to expand their business, with more than a third (39%) of those surveyed planning on opening another high street store in the next 12 months, and a quarter (26%) intending to employ more staff.

Despite recent high-profile retail chain closures, Visa’s research show an encouraging outlook for the future of high streets in Wales:

  • 72% of small high street businesses surveyed in Wales are optimistic about the future of their high street, up from 54% 12 months ago, with seven in ten (70%) saying their local high street is improving;
  • 54% of people surveyed in Wales visit their local high street at least once a week, with those in Cardiff visiting most regularly (66%);
  • 55% of consumers surveyed in Cardiff are optimistic about the future of their high street, the most optimistic city in Wales;
  • Of the shoppers surveyed, local high streets are still the preferred destination for shopping (32%) for Welsh people, beating shopping centres (25%) and online shopping (22%);
  • Looking to the future, Welsh shoppers surveyed said that they would like to see more pop-up shops (37%), bakeries (32%), book shops (30%) and clothes shops (30%) on their local high street.

High Streets Minister, Jake Berry MP, said: “The Government Awards celebrate the dedicated shop keepers, the committed volunteers and forward-thinking councils who together are creating vibrant and dynamic high streets that are loved by their communities.

“Last year more than 200 high streets across the land battled it out in a hotly contested competition to be crowned Britain’s best.

“I would encourage communities across the nation to enter, so their high streets and the people working in them gain the recognition they fully deserve.”

Jeni Mundy, Regional Managing Director UK & Ireland, Visa, added: “We’re delighted to partner with the Great British High Street Awards for a second year, particularly as our research shows that there is plenty to celebrate on our high streets, and we’re very encouraged to see independent shops playing such an important role in this.

“Through our involvement with the Awards, we’ve witnessed the huge strides that high streets are making in transforming themselves, with many adapting to changing consumer demands for new goods and services whilst maintaining their status as a hub for local communities. Today’s consumers expect a great deal from their shopping experiences, and it is those high streets demonstrating adaptability, resilience and creativity that are setting themselves up for success.”

The Great British High Street Awards 2019, run by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government in proud partnership with Visa and backed by other supporters, recognises and celebrates local achievements on the UK’s high streets and supports the communities in which we live and work.

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The initiative includes a competition to find the UK’s best and most improved high streets within two categories: the Champion award to celebrate the UK’s best high streets, and the Rising Star award for those taking the lead and working to adapt and diversify. For each, a winner will be named in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as there being an overall UK winner.

In 2018, Crickhowell High Street in the Brecon Beacons in Wales was crowned the UK’s best high street, commended for its community-led initiatives, including the Corn Exchange project which transformed a former pub into shops for independent traders.

Nominations for the awards can be made by local authorities, Business Improvement Districts and – for the first time – groups of high street retailers, from today. Shortlisted entries will be announced in August 2019.

For the second year in a row, outstanding local individuals will also be recognised through the High Street Hero Award which will identify those who, through their innovation, energy, time or enthusiasm, stand out as leading lights on their high streets and in their local communities.

For more information about the Great British High Street Awards 2019, terms and conditions, and how to enter, visit: www.thegreatbritishhighstreet.co.uk.

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