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With A Fresh Ballot Approaching, We Look At Swansea BID’s 15 Year Tenure

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Swansea BID has been at the forefront of looking after the interests of city centre businesses for the past 15 years. In May 2021 it will ballot its 870-or-so members for their support, so they can continue this work.

Here Russell Greenslade, Swansea BID’s Chief Executive, talks about what has been a deeply testing time for the high street, the things he is most proud of, and why Swansea has much to look forward to.

There has, perhaps, never been a more challenging time for our high streets than the past year – and 2021 will bring its own challenges too, as we all work to adjust to a changed landscape. However there have been many achievements, both from Swansea BID and from our BID area Businesses over the 15 years of our tenure in the city centre that I am incredible proud of. Here are some of them:

BID’s Covid-19 response

The pandemic and the national response to it has been such a mercurial situation that we have all had to be on our toes, to keep BID area businesses informed about regulations, responsibilities and financial support. We have become the go-to source of information for our business throughout this difficult time, with a rolling programme of clear communications. 

The Businesses Covid-response

It has been heartening and very impressive to see our BID area businesses really step up to help our community, consumers and each other to get through the pandemic safely and well-served. Many of our food businesses and retailers have pivoted their operations and set up very effective takeaways, delivery services, and click and collect, to meet the changing needs of consumers. As a business ourselves we have been resilient providing clear leadership to our stakeholders and have repurposed our operations implementing innovative digital, data and technologies helping inform decisions and to plan for future stakeholder needs.

Best Bar None

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We introduced the Home Office-backed scheme in Swansea city centre in 2019 and it recognises night-time businesses that are carrying out meaningful and ongoing training for staff, to ensure they are well-equipped to offer safe nights out for their customers and clients. Last year, 18 venues met the stringent Best Bar None assessment criteria an many were recognised in multiple categories. Best Bar None, in tandem with the Purple Flag status, are two hallmarks of quality and safety that will both help Swansea city centre’s valuable night-time economy get back on its feet in the year ahead. 

Taxi Marshals

Our Taxi and Night Marshals have dealt with over 2 million people helping ensure safe journey home for visitors whilst working with partners helping reduce anti-social behaviour and crime.  

Additional Police Officers

We have funded more than 1,000 additional police officer hours, helping to reduce anti-social behaviour in the day, evening and night-time.

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City Centre Rangers 

Swansea BID’s funding towards the City Centre Ranger Service has helped deal with more than 100,000 activities and carried out more than 30,000 visits to businesses. Keeping a firm hold on the smooth running of the city centre helps to make it a welcoming place to visit, study in and work in.

City Centre Rangers (Image Swansea BID / Swansea Council)

The Big Heart of Swansea Brand 

The red card and app has been a real boon to businesses, helping them be seen and heard by more than 6 million people. The brand gives businesses free promotion and publicity, has delivered more than 100 events in the city centre, and it offers the popular discount card and app – with over 155,000 in circulation. We plan to reinvigorate the brand in 2021 subject to a successful ballot.

Telling Businesses’ Stories 

We have achieved more than £500,000 worth of positive media coverage for Swansea city centre and its businesses – about everything from city centre award wins, long-serving retail staff, our Extra Mile Award winners,  parking offers, green initiative and more. There is more good news to come, so we intend to keep telling your stories. 

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Saving Firms Money  

We have provided commercial business support, advice, guidance and valuable cost savings of over £565,000 to businesses and workers via our Bid Benefits offers. Recently this has included over 1,000 free PPE items, deals on business insurance, legal support and advertising, as well as grant support facilitation directly to businesses and investors of more than £847,000, to date. 

Mature Relationships 

One thing that comes through from my conversations with public, private and third sector is how the strength of our mature relationships – with Swansea Council, the universities, the police and other key organisations – help us to deliver for our stakeholders. We have worked hard to develop and maintain these and we will continue to lean upon them as our city centre develops. This is one of the great assets of being a BID that has been operating here in Swansea for many years. 

Fresh Investment

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We continue to see new retail and hospitality businesses opening their doors in Swansea and I am heartened to see people come up with fresh business concepts to attract consumers. If 2020 has been Swansea city centre’s most challenging year, then 2021 will be its most exciting and it is crucial that we keep our eye trained on that. The Swansea Bay City Deal development is unfolding all around us – Wind Street is set to get a £3M revamp and facelift, works will press ahead to transform the former Oceana club site on The Kingsway to deliver a multi-million-pound home for innovative tech and creative businesses, the go-ahead has been given to create a new St David’s Church Hall, and the much-anticipated new Swansea arena is scheduled to open in late 2021. The new public sector hub has been announced in the same area and Biophilic living building is planned for the Picton Lane area. We are continuing to work closely alongside the council and other partners helping enable a large number of projects that support the wider strategic plan to regenerate the city centre, develop more vibrancy, attract more footfall, support existing businesses and attract new investment. 

I think one of the positives to come out of the protracted nature of the pandemic is that it has driven home the message to all interested parties that we must all become cheerleaders for our city centre and for Swansea as a whole.  Investors are watching and assessing, and a steady drip of negativity can become a self-fulfilling prophesy. It can be a real stumbling block to the vitality of our area, so let’s leave it in the past. As stakeholders, we might have differing agendas, but we should also have a common goal – to support Swansea to be as successful as it can be.


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Welsh and UK Governments agree to establish Freeports in Wales

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The Welsh Government has reached agreement with the UK Government on the establishment of Freeports in Wales.

Welsh Ministers have agreed to support Freeport policies in Wales following the UK Government’s agreement to meet the Welsh Government’s demands that UK Ministers provide at least £26m of non-repayable starter funding for any Freeport established in Wales, which represents a parity with the deals offered to English Freeports.

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The UK Government have agreed to meet a number of other demands – including that both Governments will act on the basis of a ‘partnership of equals’ to deliver any Freeports in Wales.

In addition, both Governments have agreed a Freeport will only be implemented if it can be demonstrated clearly it will operate in a manner that aligns with the Welsh Government’s policies on fair work and environmental sustainability, including the commitment to Wales becoming a net-zero carbon nation.

Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething said: “Following considerable engagement between our Governments, I’m pleased we have been able to reach agreement with UK Ministers to establish Freeports in Wales. The agreement we have reached is fair to Wales, and respects the Welsh Government’s responsibilities in devolved policy areas.

“However, we have made it clear to the UK Government that a Freeport will only be implemented if it can be demonstrated, using robust evidence and analysis, that it will support our fair work agenda and deliver long-term, sustainable benefits for Wales, and value for money for Welsh taxpayers.

“I very much hope that the UK Government’s willingness to work with the Welsh Government as equals on Freeports can provide a positive model for future co-operation between our governments on other initiatives.”

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The UK Government’s Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove said: “I am delighted that Wales is the latest area in the UK set to benefit from a new Freeport.

“The UK Government’s ambitious Freeports agenda will help to level up our coastal communities and create new opportunities for people right across the country.

“Together with the Welsh Government, I look forward to seeing innovative proposals come forward that demonstrate tangible benefits for the people of Wales.”

In addition, Welsh and UK Ministers have agreed that the UK Government will provide tax incentives for Freeports in Wales in parity with Freeports in other parts of the United Kingdom for the reserved taxes that have been designated to advance the policy aims. The Welsh Government will design tax reliefs from local and devolved taxes (Non-Domestic Rates and Land Transaction Tax) to support the policy aims.

Both Governments say they will remain open to the possibility of a multi-site Freeport in Wales. In recognition of Wales’ unique economic geography and the Welsh Government’s aspirations for economic development in Wales, the UK Government is willing to relax the 45 km boundary limit for a multi-site Freeport solution, should there be a sufficiently compelling case for doing so.

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Both Governments will also remain open to the possibility of allowing more than one Freeport in Wales, should they be presented with a sufficiently compelling business case.

As with English Freeports, a fair and open competitive process will be used to determine where the policy should be implemented in Wales. Both Governments will work together to co-design the process for Freeport site selection, and both will have an equal say in all decisions throughout the implementation process. This includes the final decision on site selection.

Both Governments have begun the process of designing the bid prospectus for the competition and further details about the timing of next steps will be released in due course.

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Swansea digital agency iCreate enters the metaverse with bespoke digital environments

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Swansea-based creative agency iCreate is entering the metaverse by creating 3D visual environments for Dubai-based NFT boutique Jumi – a new outlet for curated digital art.

The metaverse hit the headlines last year when Facebook’s parent company rebranded to Meta, reflecting the growing potential of the internet to offer an interactive virtual world through AI and 3D digital animation.

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The metaverse offers social connection through technology, interaction with brands and businesses, and online recreation.

It encompasses everything from online video games to virtual shops where you can digitally try on items before you buy them, and bespoke venues for online events of all kinds.

It’s expected to expand into an online world where people will have their own virtual avatars which they take from one virtual environment to another, purchasing virtual products for them and housing them in virtual homes.

This is where iCreate – which specialises in creating digital environments – comes in. The company provides CGIs, 3D flythrough animations, VR tours and marketing brochures to the off-plan property sector.

From interactive, customisable home interiors that enable buyers to plan every detail of their dream home, through to large-scale digital animations of new housing developments, iCreate is adept at creating virtual environments that look and feel like the real thing.

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Now it’s teaming up with Jumi and other partners to create digital environments that will never be built in the real world, but will exist in the metaverse, where people’s avatars can explore and socialise in them.

A key aspect of the metaverse is non-fungible tokens (NFTs): digital assets that can be bought and traded. These are increasingly hitting the headlines as everyone from independent artists to big brands creates and sells digital-only products, music, artwork and more.

Dawn Lyle (right) and the team at iCreate

Jumy, which completed a $1.2M seed funding round last year, is the ultimate NFT boutique marketplace for exclusive digital art. All artworks are curated from the world’s most creative digital artists, to guarantee outstanding quality.

The platform is the world’s first to offer a fully integrated digital art experience where visitors will be able to purchase pieces with payment cards, trade their NFTs, order NFT frames (digital frames for NFT art) and flex their NFTs on metaverse – all in one place.

By collaborating with Jumi, iCreate will make beautiful, exclusive digital environments for displaying NFTs in the metaverse. From here, it’s expected that a new market in bespoke virtual homes and offices will develop over the coming years, as more aspects of all our lives are lived in the metaverse.

Dawn Lyle, iCreate’s co-founder, said: “We’re delighted to have formed this new partnership with Jumi and to be taking our bespoke digital environments into the metaverse.

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“The metaverse offers such a wealth of possibilities, and over the coming years it will become increasingly common to play, meet and do business with people all over the world in virtual settings.

“We’re excited to be creating stunning digital environments in which these activities can take place; in the metaverse, there are no limitations and it’s possible to bring dreams to life, creating astonishing virtual places that delight and surprise. It gives us the opportunity to put all our creative skills to use in exciting new ways and we can’t wait to get started.”

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River Island launches its brand new Swansea concept store this weekend

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Fashion chain River Island is revealing its brand new concept store at Morfa Retail Park in Swansea on Saturday (7 May).

Located at the former New Look store at Unit 6 on the Brunel Way shopping centre, the new store is just a few doors down from its previous outlet, although promises to be an even bigger and better boutique shopping experience.

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Located across two floors, the 8,253 square foot store has been specially curated to the tastes of Swansea shoppers according to the fashion chain.

Set across one level, womenswear will occupy just over half the space, with the remainder split between menswear and kidswear, stocking kids, mini and baby.

To celebrate the new opening, River Island will be hosting a launch event weekend in-store on the 7th and 8th of May, where shoppers can expect to hear celebratory sounds with in-store DJ sets, whilst the first lucky 100 customers through the doors will receive a £10 gift card which can be redeemed in-store or online.

Frances Baker, River Island Property Director said: “River Island is thrilled to be relocating and open ing a new boutique store in Swansea, Morfa as part of our segmentation programme.

“We are excited to introduce our concept store to our existing loyal customers, with exciting opportunities to acquire new customers with our new look-and-feel store.”

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River Island say the store upgrade strengthens its 300 strong estate and solidifies its message of “standing by the high street”, a campaign set up in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic to show solidarity with other high street brands negatively hit by the effects of the pandemic.

The fashion chain say that by investing in finding ways to encourage and entice customers to return to in-person shopping it hopes to “enhance and improve the shopping journey for its customers”.

(Lead image: River Island)

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