Page last updated at 08:02 GMT, Friday, 15 May 2009 09:02 UK

Will shopping centre help city?

By Preeti Jha
BBC News

John Lewis store in construction
The first John Lewis store in Wales is opening on 24 September

Rising above the buzz of construction a new shopping centre in Cardiff is transforming the cityscape.

Builders are labouring to complete St David's 2 - the largest shopping centre to open in Europe this year - ahead of its launch in October.

The development, which is a 967,500 sq ft extension to the existing St David's shopping centre, will create over 120 new shops, restaurants and cafes.

So just how is the £675m scheme going to affect shopping in the region?

Property consultancy Experian predicts it will move Cardiff up the retail rankings from 11th to eighth place.

And it forecasts the development will increase retail spend in Cardiff from £1.82m to £2.35m.

Paul Williams, the city centre manager, said: "The new St David's centre is more than just a shopping destination for the capital, we want to attract the widest possible audience, from neighbouring cities such as Bristol and also other Welsh towns."

By attracting even more shoppers to Cardiff the development of St David's 2 will strengthen the city's reputation as a leading retail destination
Mark Holmes

But some are concerned about the impact it will have on existing shopping areas in the city.

In Queen's Arcade Katherine Vincent, manager of recently opened Card Centre, said some shops are relocating to the new centre.

"This can have a knock-on-effect, as other stores bring us passing trade," she said.

But Mr Williams said: "We will see a migration of some of the retailers from Queen Street to the new centre but there's only a small amount of movement at present."

Competing shopping centre Capitol, in Queen Street, is confident the new development will not deter its "strong and loyal customer base".

Coffee shop owner in Morgan Arcade
Some retailers in Royal Arcade are glad of the development

Mark Holmes, asset manager of Moorfield Real Estate Fund, the owner of Capitol, said: "By attracting even more shoppers to Cardiff the development of St David's 2 will strengthen the city's reputation as a leading retail destination and benefit the retail community as a whole."

The Capitol is launching new independent retailers to differentiate it from St David's 2, revealed Mr Holmes.

Nick Carter, director at Cardiff-based property advisor Calan Retail, also thinks Cardiff is strong enough to support the two shopping areas.

He said: "The circulation route might change but the footfall in Cardiff is going to increase, and this will spread throughout Queen Street as well."

"But smaller retailers in the suburbs or some of the satellite towns surrounding Cardiff like Barry, Caerphilly and Pontypridd, might find things more difficult," he added.

Arcade hopes

At the city's arcades, shop owners say the centre could not open sooner.

Inside Harleys coffee shop in the Royal Arcade, Robert Lawrence, 49 said: "This part of town has died.

"Many small shops have closed - we're hoping St David's 2 is going to make the arcades more vibrant and bring people back in again."

In Wally's Delicatessen owner Steven Salamon, 45, painted a similar picture.

"Construction work has completely ruined the retail environment here. Shoppers avoid the noise, dust and scaffolding," he said.

But Mr Salamon is optimistic about the future: "I think the focus of the city will shift to this end once the centre opens. John Lewis in particular will bring in people from outside Cardiff."

Improving the integration between the different shopping areas of Cardiff is one of the aims of St David's 2, said Neil Carron, project director at Land Securities.

He said: "While there might be some empty shops as retailers shift around and adjust their representation, parts of Cardiff like the Hayes and arcades, which have suffered isolation in the past because they're not in prime retail space, stand to benefit."

On a shopping trip to the city centre Jennifer Jones, 62, and Margaret Herridge, 64, from Pontypridd said they were looking forward to the new John Lewis store.

Shopper in the Hayes
Judy Fear thinks the new shopping centre should support smaller shops

Ms Herridge said: "St David's 2 will put the city on the map as a retail break."

"I would be more likely to shop in Cardiff," she said than in nearby Cribbs Causeway, in Bristol, or smaller centres such as Cyfarthfa Retail Park in Merthyr Tydfil.

Jill Dix, a housewife and "bargain-hunter" from Cardiff is also anticipating the new centre.

"I'll be there every day, I can't wait. And it's perfect for mums like me who have a baby and pram," she said.

However there are some who are critical of the new development.

Mrs Jones, who didn't want to give her first name, 40, prefers the original city arcades and boutique stores. She said: "It's too high, it dominates over the rest of the town centre, and it could be anywhere in the world."

And Judy Fear, who previously worked in financial services, is concerned the centre will vastly raise rents for other retailers in the city.

She said: "I think the centre is a good idea but worried about what it will do to smaller shops. It should offer more community space for those who can never afford such rents."

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