In 2019, Swansea city centre was plastered with ‘fake’ shops that had 3D image posters posing as an artificial shop front.
The fake shops were introduced in a bid to distract attention away from the fact that the units aren’t occupied until an actual business comes along wanting to open up.
There have been fake wedding dress shops, fake tech shops and even fake hat shops – each trying to soften the blow of the staggering number of empty units in the city centre.
The good news is that today, some of these ‘fake’ shops have reopened as real businesses, or are set to in the coming months.
From the 1970s right through to the noughties, Swansea’s Kingsway was the coolest place to be.
Home to Quid’s Inn, Jumpin Jaks, Oceana, Ritzy’s and Icon, and Time & Envy to name a few, you’d be right in saying that the street has changed a little since its days as a party capital.
These days though, it’s home to more fake non-shops than nightclubs.
Dreary as these shop fronts might look, there have been some great new arrivals to the Kingsway including the Coppergate student development and the lovely Number 85 Kingsway, which is adorned with a living bio-wall.
A few other independent eateries have also popped up on the street.
There are however currently eight empty units sitting vacant on the Kingsway with the city centre already struggling to attract any big name retailers.
It’s been a bit of an eye sore for quite some time, but Swansea’s High Street is slowly shaping up to become one of the smartest streets in the city.
Home to BaseKamp, Alleyway Coffee, Tangled Parrot, The Jam Jar, Elysium Art Gallery and a string of other independent vendors, the High Street seems change every few months.
Welcomed change aside, one of the biggest eye sores on the street is still the old Shoulder of Mutton pub and the ‘Head’s Up’ fake hat shop, which has been vacant for years.
The fake shop is still there, but it’s understood that the long-vacant premises is set for future development.
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Kings Buildings, Princess Way
This vacant corner unit on Princess Way once posed as a fake wedding dress shop and nail salon, but exciting redevelopments are coming and work is already underway.
Some units in the building have been empty for two decades but will be transformed into 14 new homes and five retail units.
The units were once home to a formal wear shop, as well as a camera shop, which has since relocated to Castle Street.
The retail complex around the corner on Princess Way that’s home to Tiger, Zinco Lounge, Coffee #1 and Zara, however, is still somehow covered in scaffolding.
Deputy manager at Tiger, Stefan Matthews, previously told WalesOnline: “I have only been here since last November, so almost a year, but I don’t remember it without scaffolding.
“Customers come in and ask: ‘How long have you been open?’ You’d think they meant since lockdown, but they mean in general because customers don’t see the shops behind the scaffolding.
“I definitely think there would be more footfall if wasn’t there anymore. You can’t really see the shop signs or anything. It was only the other week that I noticed if you are walking up the street, in some shops the signs stick out, but others are concealed behind the scaffolding.”
The retail vein of the city centre, Oxford Street, like many others in the country, has lost a huge number of retail units over the past year.
Back in the day, Swansea shoppers would have been spoiled for choice on Oxford street, and could browse through the likes of Office, Topshop, Woolworths, BHS, Jane Norman, Miss Selfridge, and Next – all of which have either closed, or are planning on closing.
One corner unit on the street has been various different fake shops over the years, including a fake tech shop and a fake office.
The dragon mural appeared for Croeso festival, a new two-day event celebrating all things Welsh.
Regarding the redevelopment of the Kingsway and beyond, a Swansea Council spokesperson told WalesOnline in January that: “The council and partners have invested hugely on The Kingsway in recent years to benefit the fantastic businesses based there and attract even more investment in future.
“We led on a £12m improvement of The Kingsway’s look and feel, which has generated a far more pleasant, green environment for businesses and visitors. This scheme has been praised by Swansea’s business community and residents.
“Led by the council, main construction work has also now started on a high-quality new office development at the former Oceana nightclub site. Once complete in the summer of 2023, this development will provide space for 600 jobs in the tech and digital sectors, while generating more spending in the city centre and boosting our city’s economy by £32.6m a year.
“Our work has also successfully generated considerable private sector investment and confidence in Kingsway and the wider city centre, including the Hacer Development ‘living building’ plan for the former Woolworths building.
“Including a ‘living wall’, Coastal Housing has transformed the first and second floors of the Potters Wheel building into offices, and developments like the Coppergate student development are bringing more footfall and vitality to the area. The empty units referred to are privately owned premises that the council has no control over, although we’re happy to assist private owners in any way we can to help bring these premises back to life.
“Swansea – like all cities and towns across the UK – is not immune to the temporary impacts of the pandemic, although our £1bn regeneration of the city has continued at pace, including Copr Bay and the arena, an improved Wind Street and plans for a greener, more welcoming Castle Square Gardens. This has helped attract a high-quality development partner for other key locations such as the Civic Centre site, and means Swansea remains an attractive location for investment. This is likely to further strengthen as even more major projects are delivered.”
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