In Focus: St David’s Cardiff reports return of Christmas “mission shoppers”

As the easing of lockdown restrictions loom over England, retailers will be looking to Wales to draw comparisons and see if Christmas shoppers have flocked to stores to make purchases.

In October, The Welsh First Minister announced a two week “firebreak” lockdown, with all non-essential retail, hospitality and tourism businesses required to close. The early lockdown meant that Wales could reopen retail whilst England was in its’ own lockdown.

Footfall across all retail destinations throughout the UK was -55.4% last week (15-21 November) compared to the same week in 2019, according to retail experts Springboard.

Impacting largely on the overall figures, footfall in England was -59% year-on-year, compared to -29.6% in Wales.

Prior to reopening, St David’s and its retailers both utilised the firebreak for a number of opportunities – primarily to focus on the Christmas period and merchandise store windows and displays in preparation, whilst decorations were installed throughout the scheme.

Some brands chose to undertake key works to enhance their stores and invest in planned re-fit projects, such as Superdry who launched a new storefront in time for opening.

James Waugh, Centre Director of St David’s Cardiff, spoke to about how St David’s Shopping Centre in Cardiff has performed since retail re-opened:

What does the average day look like for visitors to St David’s, post-lockdown 2?

We have seen a real trend in our visitors arriving earlier to enjoy a coffee, and typically the peak of the day has shifted forwards a couple of hours to around 11am. To help with this demand and control flow into the centre, we have asked retailers to extend their trading times to 8pm.

Has the sooner, shorter lockdown in Wales helped with retail compared to the rest of the UK?

It has been very different in Wales due to the local authority regional lockdowns in South Wales – these have been in force since 8th September. Due to these regional variations, it wasn’t really a shorter lockdown as such.

Wales has had smaller local lockdowns for key areas around us and within our catchment, for example Caerphilly and Bridgend. This meant Cardiff residents could only visit the centre for a number of weeks. However, this lift in the regional restrictions has meant visitors are returning to the centre, showcasing the resilience of Cardiff as a principal city within the UK.

St David's Cardiff

How are customers behaviours changing post-Wales Lockdown 2?

Overall, we have seen a real shift in our consumers’ behaviour, with visitors now coming to St David’s to shop for a number of items, as well as grabbing a coffee and a quick bite to eat, as opposed to just browsing. We have been really pleased with our visitors continued co-operation in following our guidelines, in place since re-opening post firebreak, such as social distancing and wearing face coverings.

How have you managed staff through the process of returning to work?

We have created a dedicated operational team onsite who implement and maintain our strict protocols, in line with government guidelines and managing the public spaces. As we are now post firebreak, retail staff have now returned to work and we remain in close communication with stores to support them and assist with re-opening.

Is there a certain demographic of customers you have noticed are returning in higher numbers?

Due to our location in the city, and proximity to a number of universities, we have always attracted a high number of students – this has not really changed since re-opening. In addition, the young professional catchment has also continued to visit. We have noticed our slightly older or vulnerable visitors remaining more cautious, with some coming to St David’s during off-peak periods and also utilising the car park facilities.

Are people shopping with specific intentions of purchases, or just happy to be shopping in general?

Currently, we are seeing the classic “mission shopper” – either alone or in couples during the week and specifically Christmas shopping. At weekends, we continue to see more families at the centre.

When retail initially reopened in June, certain sectors performed better than others, have you noticed any trends this time around?

We are seeing a growing trend of people treating themselves and others – particularly with items such as  jewellery, gifting, toys and branded sportswear.

To look at the future, is there a program for the future of St David’s?

We have a long-term vision for St David’s, and the crucial element of this is to maintain its strong reputation and appeal for visitors, the community, and new entrants, by creating an evolving mix of retail, leisure, and restaurant brands, plus looking at new alternative uses.

The past six months have accelerated some of the expected changes in retail, and we see this as an opportunity to grow and continue to be a focal part of the city, with greater emphasis on localism.

St David's Cardiff

What does a COVID-secure Christmas look like at St David’s?

Our dedicated operational team continue to do a fantastic job to ensure St David’s provides a welcoming environment. We have strict protocols in place, in line with government guidelines, prioritising the cleanliness of the destination, as well as consumer flow across the site and within the car park areas; new signage throughout to highlight clear messaging for the one-way system; hand sanitiser stations; and designated queueing areas have been allocated (where required).

We have also introduced regular tannoy announcements throughout the mall, acting as gentle reminder for visitors around social distancing and face coverings.