Page last updated at 12:48 GMT, Thursday, 22 October 2009 13:48 UK

City opens 675m shopping centre

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The St David's centre says it expects 31m visitors in its first year

The new £675m extension to the St David's centre has opened in Cardiff, with managers promising a touch of "West End glamour" in the city.

They say shoppers will no longer need to travel to London to visit designer outlets who are opening stores in Wales for the first time.

With over 120 new shops, restaurants and cafes, it is the largest shopping centre to open in Europe this year.

Out-of-town rivals believe it might encourage more shoppers to south Wales.

According to centre manager Steven Madeley, it now provides around 30% of the commercial real estate in Cardiff city centre, catapulting it into the UK's top 10 shopping destinations.

Over a third of the people we surveyed travelled as far as London, several times a year, in search of high quality and luxury items they simply couldn't get in Cardiff
Steven Madeley, St David's centre

"All our research while St David's was still in the planning indicated that there was a huge market for prestige shopping and big-ticket stores in Cardiff," he said.

"People do like having their familiar shops to buy their staple goods - and we've certainly got that market covered - but they also want glamour shopping.

"Over a third of the people we surveyed travelled as far as London, several times a year, in search of high quality and luxury items they simply couldn't get in Cardiff.

"We've managed to attract to Wales for the first time stores like Radley, Reiss, Crabtree & Evelyn, Kurt Geiger and of course John Lewis."

Time delay footage showing the St David's shopping centre extension take shape

The redevelopment - which was called St David's 2 during the construction phase but now becomes simply St David's - has been a decade in the planning.

'Doom-mongers'

Some of Cardiff's established stores have responded to the opening with major refits and refurbishments of their own.

These include the 144-year-old House of Fraser store on St Mary Street, Marks & Spencer, Debenhams and Next.

Mr Madeley said there were "doom-mongers who predict that we'll fall flat on our faces, opening a shopping centre of this type and scale in the midst of a recession".

"But I prefer to take a more pro-active perspective. I really believe that something like St David's can help lift the recession.

Inside St David's
We see the arrival of St David's as a positive move for the area
David Norris, Bridgend Designer Outlet

"There is money out there, people are just extremely cautious about parting with it. If we can provide something good enough for them to overcome that caution, then we can create wealth and jobs in Cardiff, and those people in turn will want somewhere to spend their wages."

He said the centre expected about 31m visitors in its first years, with many from outside Cardiff.

"Some of those people are going to want to make a weekend of it, staying over in the Brecon Beacons or the Gower, so I really think St David's could be good for the whole of south Wales."

Some argue that the new centre is seen as a boost to the whole region.

At the Bridgend Designer Outlet about 20 miles west along the M4, operation director David Norris said: "We see the arrival of St David's as a positive move for the area and don't foresee it having a negative impact on the designer outlet.

"Its selection of high street stores complements our offer of over 90 designer brands at discounted prices, rather than competing with it, and gives shoppers even more reason to come to south Wales."



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SEE ALSO
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'Store wars' as John Lewis opens
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Will shopping centre help city?
15 May 09 |  Wales
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Part of Hayes demolished for mall
29 Jan 07 |  South East Wales
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