WHEN the Friars Walk Mall first opened six years ago today, there was a lot of fanfare surrounding the new downtown shopping destination.
Six years later, Friars Walk continues to be the main shopping center in central Newport, although there have been big changes there, including the departure of Debenhams this spring, when the brand’s stores were closed across the country.
Other big names have also left: Topshop, Schuh and Tiger have all left in the past two years, while the Cineworld cinema – across John Frost Square – has been dormant since the height of the pandemic. .
In other respects, Friars Walk has remained largely the same as when it opened in 2015. Fashion retailers Next, H&M and River Island remain there, while the downtown restaurant offering – mostly on the lower level – is practically unchanged from the initial line. compared to six years ago.
Take a look at the original directory of Friars Walk stores from 2015:
Drago Lounge, Nando’s and Wagamama are among the original facilities still present at Friars Walk, and while others have left, they were quickly replaced. The Smokd meat specialists, for example, are a recent addition to the centre’s diverse food offering.
To mark the sixth anniversary of the opening, we asked our readers on social media for their thoughts on the mall’s past and future. Which old stores have they missed the most and which retailers would they like to see entering Friars Walk?
Many readers who responded said they would like to see more fashion retailers set up shop in the mall.
Primark has been mentioned several times – the chain already has a store in downtown Newport (on Commercial Street), but readers including Mica Powell have said it’s time to open a bigger store in the city.
“I think they should move the Primark store and have a huge Cardiff style one in the Debenhams unit,” she said.
The future of the former Debenhams store, which is one of the largest retail spaces in the city center, has been mentioned by many readers, including Deb Parry and Janice Walker, who also said the site could be a good destination for Primark.
Other suggestions for the site included a John Lewis department store and – in a pretty radical change of direction for the space – an IKEA. The Swedish furniture chain’s closest stores are currently in Cardiff Bay or on the outskirts of Bristol.
But Debenhams shouldn’t necessarily be replaced by just one big retailer, said Rhiannon Combstock.
“[It] was such a big store, surely you could set up several stores there, âshe suggested.
Meanwhile, other retailers our readers suggested included the Lush cosmetics chain, a larger M&S department store to complement the current John Frost Square grocery store and the Yours womenswear store.
There have also been calls for more independent businesses to be featured in Friars Walk, which is currently home to non-chain businesses like Sin City Comics and The Port, a hub for local arts and crafts.
âWe need local businesses to help the local economy,â Twitter user Keiron said.
Many readers have also suggested that parking at Friars Walk should be made free, in order to attract more customers. It currently costs Â£ 1 for the first hour in the center car park, rising to Â£ 1.50 for two hours.
Anthony Wilkins said the lack of free parking has instead diverted downtown shoppers to out-of-town retail parks.
âIt’s free parking, easier to access, with everything you need in one place,â he said. âWhy go downtown?
While Debenhams is empty at one end of Friars Walk, the doors to Cineworld have been locked for months and several of our readers have said they missed having a movie theater in the city center.
Other old stores that our readers said they missed included Tiger, The Body Shop, and toy retailer Hawkin’s Bazaar.