Wales Business Insider April 2022

Urban makeover

One of the highlights of preparing for this edition was a cup of tea with Kasim Ali. He gradually built his tearoom and tea distribution business by aiming for quality, creating convivial spaces and seizing opportunities as they arose.

There is a lot of soul-searching about the future of our urban centres.

The Federation of Small Businesses found that 67% of people thought their downtown or main street was ‘bad’ or ‘dark’. This shows the magnitude of the challenge. Ali’s home town of Cardiff fared better than many other places in Wales. It has a lively food and drink scene. Cardiff Market is doing a great job of serving its traditional clientele, while adding new food and drink businesses such as Pierogi, which sells a type of dumpling popular in parts of Eastern Europe.

But Cardiff, like other places, has too many empty shops.

Debenhams closed branches in Cardiff, Swansea, Wrexham and Newport in 2021.

It’s a big deal, but more importantly – a bigger opportunity. We have a rare chance to remake our city centers for start-up businesses, tea and coffee, local residents, entertainment and retail experiences you can’t get online. This combination is much more likely to attract people to live, work and visit than, say, a sold out department store.

Behind the hospitality sector is the food and beverage industry, with its own challenges, including costs and staff availability. So it was great to find out that catering giant Compass plans to use more Welsh produce in the years to come.

Wales has its problems, but we are so lucky to live in peace. Amid the grim news from Ukraine, it was heartening to hear of the efforts being made by many Welsh businesses and individuals to help those affected by the war there. The world needs people like you.

Douglas Friedli, editor
Twitter: @DouglasInsider

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