THE STO­RIES BE­HIND TOWN’S EMPTY STORES

Llanelli Star - - Front Page - Oliver Rod­er­ick @Ol­Rodle­gacy oliver.rod­er­[email protected]­di­awales.co.uk 01792 545522

WALK around Llanelli’s town cen­tre and you will no­tice that the shops and re­tail out­lets found there are usu­ally in one of three cat­e­gories.

The first is the most sadly no­tice­able – the aban­doned premises where busi­nesses have shut up shop, un­able to thrive for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons, with the build­ings now look­ing for the most part like a di­lap­i­dated shell of their for­mer selves.

Then there are the busi­nesses who have been there and done that. They set up shop months, years, even decades ago, and are still there wel­com­ing cus­tomers nearly ev­ery day. It is not just lim­ited to the big-name brands and chains ei­ther – some smaller busi­nesses have man­aged to keep the pace and keep their doors open.

The third ex­am­ples are the newly-opened firms, all with fresh busi­ness plans – but it’s never quite easy to pre­dict how their for­tunes will fare.

Much has been made of the im­pact of the open­ing of Parc Trostre Re­tail Park on the out­skirts of town, with a num­ber of no­table busi­nesses mak­ing the move away from the town cen­tre as a re­sult.

Marks & Spencer was one busi­ness which did just that, and the ef­fect of its de­par­ture was called by some as the death knell for the town cen­tre.

But Car­marthen­shire Coun­cil has been work­ing on rec­ti­fy­ing that, with their Op­por­tu­nity Street ini­tia­tive see­ing £4.5 mil­lion spent on ac­quir­ing build­ings and mod­ernising them ready to at­tract new busi­nesses.

There is a com­mon mis­con­cep­tion that the coun­cil owns all of the va­cant premises in the town, which it says is not the case.

It also stressed that it was not re­spon­si­ble for set­ting rates on the units, an ar­gu­ment that is of­ten used as a rea­son for busi­nesses strug­gling to sur­vive in mod­ern times.

We took pic­tures of ev­ery empty shop in Llanelli town cen­tre, and took a look at what those units used to be.

EAST GATE

Two premises at the still shiny new de­vel­op­ment on the east side of town have yet to be filled. They sur­round the Hun­gry Horse pub, which is a pop­u­lar venue for lo­cals. With the likes of Nan­dos, Odeon, Joe’s Ice Cream and Red 10 in such close prox­im­ity, this seems a great lo­ca­tion to open up.

ST ELLI SHOP­PING CEN­TRE

Llanelli town cen­tre’s shop­ping cen­tre first opened in Novem­ber 1997, and cel­e­brated its 20th an­niver­sary last year. But even the land­scape of shop fronts has changed in here over the years - it cur­rently has three empty units.

MUR­RAY STREET

A for­mer or­thodon­tics is now in­ac­ces­si­ble from the front due to an over­grown frontage. Signs from the for­mer busi­ness still re­main.

SPRING GAR­DENS

It was around 100 years ago that Llanelli’s YMCA was in its hey­day. The build­ing would later be­come home to sev­eral smaller busi­nesses, most of which still have rem­nants to­day.

A fancy dress shop, Com­puter X Change, The Candy Shop (a con­fec­tionary, to­bac­conist and newsagent), Se­bon Cos­met­ics, The Cat’s Whiskers hair sa­lon, a se­nior cit­i­zens’ day cen­tre and even a ver­ti­cal tan­ning room sounds like a to­tally ran­dom list of busi­nesses, but those all share the same past of be­ing housed in the for­mer YMCA, with the ini­tials still vis­i­ble on the build­ing’s front to­day.

COW­ELL STREET

Chill­ies Diner is now empty on Cow­ell Street, but busi­nesses have strug­gled to make a suc­cess of the unit. A bar and grill called Ren­dezvous was there at one point, and a Smith & Jones Pub called The Bid­ding was there be­fore that. The build­ing it is in was once the Pugh Brothers de­part­ment store.

Data­fone Ltd is empty across the road - that used to be home to Gaynor’s, and be­fore that a fancy dress shop.

Marzano’s Caffe Bar is an ex­am­ple of how a pre­vi­ously empty unit can have life breathed back into it.

JOHN STREET

The let­ter A hang­ing from the front face of Evan-Jones op­ti­cians is per­fect im­agery for a build­ing once home to a thriv­ing busi­ness and now look­ing worse for wear.

LLANELLI MAR­KET

Even the mar­ket has empty units. The unit va­cated by AJ Meats has yet to be filled.

The mar­ket is also where The Sausage Hut was forced to close af­ter only a few months’ trade.

STEP­NEY STREET (WEST SIDE)

On the whole, this area has man­aged to keep oc­cu­piers in its units, one of which was mod­ernised un­der Car­marthen­shire County Coun­cil’s Op­por­tu­nity Street scheme.

There are still a few empty units though, in­clud­ing some within the Step­ney Ar­cade, with one frozen in time with dis­plays of Christ­mas presents.

VAUGHAN STREET AND BRIDGE STREET

While Vaughan Street does re­tain the likes of Boots and Home Bargains, it was dealt a blow with the loss of bud­get chain Bar­gain Buys just a few months ago. But the street which is now home to Llanelli’s out­door mar­ket one day each week was dealt a bad blow when Marks and Spencer shut up shop to move to Trostre.

STEP­NEY STREET (EAST SIDE)

KCB Tee-Shirts and Gifts was an­other one which left re­cently, while Vi­sion Ex­press de­parted for Trostre.

PARK STREET

Fur­ther east from Step­ney Street, Park Street has its own re­tail spa­ces which sadly aren’t utilised.

The cen­tre-piece for the un­used build­ings here is the di­lap­i­dated Ty Me­lyn, once Cir­cles Bar, but Siop y Werin, the for­mer mu­sic and records store, is also in a bad state.

One now-va­cant premises at 16 Park Street used to be Mr Chicken Ex­press, of­fer­ing “lip lick­ing flavour” back in the day.

SO WHAT DO THE BUSI­NESSES STILL HERE THINK?

A busi­ness with huge longevity in the town is Jenk­ins Bak­ery, which has mul­ti­ple out­lets within and sur­round­ing the town cen­tre and has grown to places across South Wales.

Rus­sell Jenk­ins, op­er­a­tions di­rec­tor at Jenk­ins Bak­ery said: “The Jenk­ins Bak­ery is uniquely placed as a long-es­tab­lished fam­ily busi­ness which has been op­er­at­ing in Llanelli since 1921.

“With 97 years of ex­pe­ri­ence be­hind us, we are a highly-re­spected, wellestab­lished and award­win­ning fam­ily busi­ness which prides it­self on the val­ues of tra­di­tional recipes and great crafts­man­ship.

“Cer­tainly, Llanelli faces big chal­lenges, but we see the key fac­tors for suc­cess in hav­ing a long-es­tab­lished fam­ily brand, a qual­ity rep­u­ta­tion, great cus­tomer ser­vice, great staff and know­ing your cus­tomers and their needs

“What traders need now is ac­tion – at least some ded­i­cated form of ‘time lim­ited’ (eg three hours for free) car park­ing in Llanelli town cen­tre.

“There also needs to be a more pru­dent al­lo­ca­tion of pub­lic money in terms of in­vest­ment in Llanelli town cen­tre.

Alan Seward of Seward’s gro­cer’s in Llanelli mar­ket of­fered the per­spec­tive of mar­ket traders on what it takes to be suc­cess­ful in the town.

“You need to know your cus­tomers, and look af­ter your cus­tomers, and then your cus­tomers will look af­ter you,” he said.

“Shop­ping habits have changed. The younger gen­er­a­tion don’t tend to come into the mar­ket, that’s the trou­ble, as it’s all on­line. But we’ve got a niche mar­ket – we know the dif­fer­ent cus­tomers, and what they pre­fer. That’s the thing which comes with know­ing your cus­tomer.”

David Darkin is the Pres­i­dent of the Llanelli Cham­ber of Trade and Com­merce.

“A vi­brant town cen­tre is im­por­tant as the heart of a com­mu­nity which is why hav­ing oc­cu­pied build­ings in the town cen­tre is so im­por­tant,” he said.

“Empty shops in the high street can be found up and down the UK and abroad, a symp­tom of the rise of e-com­merce. It’s im­por­tant there­fore that we seek to di­ver­sify the uses of town cen­tre premises in or­der to keep them as a thriv­ing cen­tre to the com­mu­nity.

“I’m look­ing for­ward to the adop­tion of the new Lo­cal De­vel­op­ment Or­der (LDO) later this year which should al­low this di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion to hap­pen.”

Ty Me­lyn on Park Street, once home to Cir­cles bar.

The ex-Pugh Brothers store.

The old YMCA build­ing in Llanelli.

Pic­tures: Robert Me­len

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.