Friars Walk, Newport’s hotly anticipated new retail and leisure destination has attracted a record number of shoppers to Newport City Centre on its opening weekend. Since developer Queensberry Real Estate unveiled the scheme with a grand launch on Thursday last week (12 November), over 350,000 shoppers visited across the course of the opening weekend, with 102,000 being welcomed on the opening day alone.
Queensberry Real Estate with support from Newport City Council and Newport Live delivered a 4 day opening event programme featuring a combination of dance, music, street theatre and interactive workshops. The opening extravaganza included appearances from several exciting bands as well as appearances from Newport County and Newport Gwent Dragons. Visitors were able to enjoy a daring aerial dance spectacular by Chloe Loftus Dance, Capital FM Street Stars and live music from a number of bands.
Working across the four days were a team of hardworking and loyal ambassadors who handed out information about Friars Walk and the city of Newport. The team will be working again on the weekends of 21st and 22nd November and 5th and 6th December.
As one of only a few new shopping centres to launch in the UK this year, the £117 million scheme is already providing the basis of the wider regeneration in Newport. The 390,000 sq ft open air shopping centre is fully integrated with the neighbouring Kingsway Centre and the wider retail offer in the city centre. It is estimated that it will double retail sales in the city, adding £120 million per annum and overall, Newport’s catchment is predicted to increase from 211,000 to 367,000 with an estimated footfall of 10-12 million per annum (Source: Javelin/DTZ).
Stuart Harris, from Queensberry Real Estate said:
"We’ve been blown away by the response of everyone to Friars Walk, the response from the both the public and traders has been overwhelmingly positive.”
Designed by Leslie Jones Architecture, Friars Walk opened on schedule last Thursday (12 November) with 25 of the stores, six of the restaurants and the eight screen Cineworld multiplex cinema trading. This includes retail anchors H&M and Next, both 20,000 sq ft stores, and a 90,000 sq ft full offer Debenhams Department Store. Further restaurants are due to open in the coming weeks including Chiquitos and Frankie and Benny’s, with a Marks and Spencer Food Hall to launch in early December, in time for the Christmas rush.
Ty Edwards, Sales Director for Debenhams, added:
“We have enjoyed the most exciting start for our Newport store and visitor numbers have been incredible, far exceeding our expectations. We smashed our sales target on opening day by mid-afternoon and have achieved strong double-digit growth on our sales targets every day since.
“Our full department store product offer is being very well received by shoppers, with fashion and gifting in particular performing extremely well. Our new food offers are also incredibly busy considering the great choice within Friars Walk. We are thrilled with the feedback received from our customers and are confident sales will continue to be strong this week as customers snap up our great winter offers.”
Local shoppers also visited the new restaurants and leisure facilities in the new scheme, which include an 8-screen Cineworld Cinema and restaurants brands including Loungers, Nando’s and Le Bistrot Pierre. Le Bistrot Pierre, in particular, experienced high interest with hundreds of early table bookings made over the course of weekend after its most successful restaurant opening on Thursday, with over 400 visitors.
Rob Beacham, co-owner for Le Bistrot Pierre said:
"Our Newport opening has been our most successful opening to date. We couldn't have asked for a better launch. As soon as we opened the doors at 11am on Thursday the bistrot was full, as it was throughout the whole weekend, and we were delighted to serve over 1,700 customers. The comments from the good people of Newport have been really complementary, it was fantastic to see so many local people experiencing Le Bistrot Pierre and we have received some great feedback about the bistrot's interior too - with one customer saying it's worthy of an award.
“The team have worked incredibly hard to make sure the opening was a success. Newport is a developing city and we're excited to be part of its growth as well as to offer something different: freshly prepared bistrot cooking at great value."
Justin Skinner, Senior VP of Marketing at Cineworld, comments:
We’ve been overwhelmed with the response to our latest Cineworld opening at Newport’s Friars Walk. Since launching on Thursday 12th November, we’ve welcomed hundreds of local people to the cinema to see some of the latest releases, such as SPECTRE and Steve Jobs. With the final instalment of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 out this week (19th November) and Star Wars: The Force Awakens out this December, we are expecting continued success. Feedback for the opening overall has been fantastic and we cannot wait to welcome more people in to Newport’s latest entertainment offering”
Friars Walk was made possible by a unique public-private partnership that saw Newport City Council provide Queensberry Real Estate with access to a loan to fund the scheme. It is at the heart of the wider regeneration underway in Newport and has already created 1,200 jobs in the new shops and restaurants worth an estimated £15 million a year in salaries to the local economy. Major employers including Lloyds Bank, Airbus, Admiral Insurance and the Office of National Statistics have also been attracted back to the city centre, contributing to the city’s 69,000 jobs and increasing employment rate – which is among the highest in Wales.
£230 million worth of regeneration projects have also been completed in the city in the last 10 years, including a new University of South Wales campus opposite the Friars Walk development and reclamation of the former derelict Old Town Dock.