On the eve of Small Business Saturday, new figures show more people are visiting Newport city centre than before the Covid pandemic – bucking ‘high street’ footfall trends in the rest of Wales and across the UK.
According to data from official counting software*, footfall in Newport city centre for the period January to October this year is 5.3% ahead of the first 10 months of 2019 (the last ‘normal’ trading year before the Covid lockdowns).
Across Wales, footfall for the same period is down by almost 13% and in the UK as a whole is down by almost 14% when compared to 2019.
And there was more good news for city centre traders last month as the Newport Now Business Improvement District’s (BID) Countdown to Christmas event attracted almost 9,000 additional visitors compared to an average Saturday.
Footfall figures show the Christmas lights switch-on, which the BID organises and delivers in partnership with Newport City Council, Friars Walk and Newport City Radio, brought in 8,900 additional people – an increase on the previous Saturday of more than 60%.
Analysis of 2023 footfall figures by the BID has shown major events are the key driver for people to visit the city centre.
As well as Countdown to Christmas, events like Armed Forces Day, the Big Splash, Pride in the Port and the Newport Food Festival – the majority of which receive funding from the BID – have all attracted many thousands of people into the city centre during the year.
Newport Now BID is a private not-for-profit company that is funded by and represents more than 600 businesses in the city centre, and helps fund many events as part of a 5-year programme of delivery devised in consultation with its members.
BID manager Kevin Ward said:
“The figures are really encouraging for our members in the city centre. When we consulted on our current business plan back in 2019, events and other ways of welcoming people into Newport were high on the wish list of many traders.
“The BID is funded by the businesses of the city centre and it’s important we spend their money in the ways that benefit them the most.
“These footfall figures show that Newport is doing better than other traditional high streets across Wales and the rest of the UK in terms of bringing people in.
“Events are really important for making Newport city centre a destination venue, and the footfall they attract provides a brilliant foundation for businesses to thrive.
“The numbers are not just driven by events, though. New additions to the city centre such as the redeveloped Newport Market, the four-star Mercure Hotel, and the refurbished Newport Arcade all play their part along with all of our other fantastic existing independent and national shops, bars, restaurants, coffee shops, and leisure facilities.
“We don’t pretend that everyone who comes into the city centre for an event leaves with full shopping bags – but there is no reason why they shouldn’t.
“The challenge for traders is to tap into events footfall and to ensure they benefit as much as possible from the increase in visitors.
“This might mean opening at different hours on event days, or providing special offers to event visitors.
“It is also important that we get the message out about Newport’s increased footfall compared to the pre-Covid period to counter some of the often ill-informed negativity on social media.”
*Figures analysed are for Jan-Oct 2023 v Jan-Oct 2019. Data is from footfall counters in the city centre operated by specialist company Springboard, and compared to Wales and UK averages provided by Springboard.