A G Meek, one of the longest established independent footwear retailers in the south Wales area, which celebrates its centenary this year, has acquired new premises at 3-4 Llanarth Street in Newport in a relocation from Upper Dock Street, securing seven jobs. Currently it employs around 30 people at its stores in Cardiff, Newport and Gloucester. “The new shop has a much bigger frontage, which we need to display the wide variety of footwear that we sell,” said owner David Meek. “It’s also well located. Newport city centre has suffered very badly in recent years but we are hopeful that the announcement that Debenhams will anchor the newly launched Friars Walk scheme will be a catalyst for better fortunes for the city centre.”
The retailer’s existing shop in Upper Dock Street was intended to be a temporary location during the construction of the Friars Walk scheme. The original development was scrapped in June 2009 as the credit crunch took hold and then relaunched in December 2010. A 93,000 sq ft Debenhams was confirmed as the flagship store in April this year and plans include 35 retail units, an eight-screen Cineworld cinema and up to 10 restaurants and cafes. The new developers, Queensberry Real Estate, say that the £100m scheme, due to open in 2015, is ‘more deliverable’ and will create 1,100 new jobs.
Huw Thomas, Director in charge of Retail at Cooke & Arkwright, who acted on behalf of the private landlord said, “A G Meek’s new premises in Llanarth Street are in a much more prominent location. The street is a popular ‘cut-through’ for shoppers walking from Commercial Street towards where the new Friars Walk development is going to be, as well as the main entrance into the Kingsway Shopping Centre. When the proposed new Debenhams is built, Llanarth Street will become a principal route to the store from Commercial Street.”
James Henton, Director of Deri Investments Ltd, speaking on behalf of the landlord commented, “We are absolutely delighted to have secured A G Meek as a long term tenant at these premises. The negotiation has required considerable compromise from both parties. We wish A G Meek every continued success and we are sure that this prestigious tenant will provide a new dimension to the shopping experience in Newport city centre.”
A G Meek was founded in Albany Road, Cardiff in 1912 by Mr Meek’s grandfather Albert George Meek, with a second shop opening in the city centre in the early 1920s and a third in Newport in the mid ‘20s. However, Mr Meek said that high business rates have had a direct effect on any expansion plans in the present day.
“I have had plans to open a further two shops for some years,” he said. “In the good times I couldn’t find suitable property at a viable rent. Now rents have dropped to more realistic levels but business rates present a major barrier to expansion.”
Business rates are currently under review by the Welsh Government.