CARDIFF’S businesses are looking to bounce back with the city seen as well-placed to recover from the pandemic recession.

The easing of lockdown restrictions and  successful vaccine rollout success in Wales has left Cardiff in a strong starting position.

The city’s Business Improvement District, FOR Cardiff, has published a five-year business plan, pledging to reinvest members’ levy of £7.5million back into the Welsh capital if ratepayers vote to extend it for another five-year term.

With high street footfall steadily declining across the UK and recent reports suggesting that one in seven shops across Britain are now vacant, FOR Cardiff acknowledges the need to drive people back to the city centre post-pandemic.

Its five-year plan introduces new projects, such as increasing green public spaces, working with Cardiff’s universities to develop an internship scheme and a challenge fund allowing organisations to bid for grants.

“The last 12 months causing unprecedented pressure on public health and businesses alike, now is a time for change,” said head of property at Admiral and FOR Cardiff’s chair, Huw Llewellyn.

He said FOR Cardiff is in a prime position to respond quickly and effectively to the recovery of the capital and to the needs of those in the city centre.

“If voted in for a second term, we will invest £7.5million to continue the many projects our members find invaluable, while also implementing new innovations to help drive Cardiff through its recovery,” he said.

Outlined in the ‘Delivering the future for Cardiff 2021-2026’ business plan, are strategies to promote environmental issues by transforming public spaces with pocket parks.

As well as proposing a series of new innovative projects such as working with Cardiff’s city centre-based universities to develop an internship scheme with local businesses; it will introduce a challenge fund allowing organisations to bid for grants to help resolve issues such as technological problems and no-shows.

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The organisation also aims for Cardiff to become one of the UK’s first equality cities.

Cerys Furlong, CEO of gender equality charity Chwarae Teg, said: “We want to create a fairer Wales where all citizens are empowered to achieve their potential, and ensure that women have an equal chance of entering the workplace, developing their skills, and building rewarding careers.”

She says there is also a huge amount of evidence showing that equality, diversity, and inclusion is fantastic for business.

Therefore, the impact of Cardiff becoming an equality city will mean that businesses can attract, retain and progress diverse talent, resulting in the city being at the forefront of equality in the UK and possibly in Europe as well.

Capitalising on the capital’s unique arcades, the inaugural campaign of the City of Arcades brand saw an increase in sales for businesses in the arcades, drawing in 206,000 visitors to the capital in one day.

FOR Cardiff’s executive director, Adrian Field, said: “Over the last five years our projects have showcased Cardiff as a vibrant, welcoming city and we’re proud of what we have achieved.

“Businesses across the city centre and local communities have been central in our plan for the next five years. We have worked closely with them over the last eight months to ensure they have a say towards what is delivered in their city.

“We now want to build on the city’s best-loved projects from the last term, but also drive our capital forward with some exciting new initiatives to create a brighter future for Cardiff”.

As a result, FOR Cardiff has successfully met the requirements for the British BID accreditation award this month, an industry body which evidences the quality of work a BID undertakes and the effectiveness of governance procedures.

Meanwhile, Cardiff’s rating on a recovery index produced by property firm Avison Young has jumped by 22.5 per cent from mid-April to May 3, overtaking the UK average figure. Cardiff is at 85.1, compared to the UK at 77.6. The index follows the ongoing impact experienced across sectors due to Covid-19 and monitors the diversity of market activity.

However, the high street still faces a battle, and footfall numbers in Cardiff have been slower to recover relative to other UK cities due to the prolonged restrictions on movement and activity in Wales said Peter Constantine, managing director at Avison Young in Cardiff.

“The number of vacant retail units presents a significant challenge and will require both a sustained economic recovery and perhaps a repurposing of the High Street to remedy the position,” he said.

“The sale of the House of Fraser store and the closure of Debenhams are examples of the structural changes the retail sector is experiencing which is not exclusive to Cardiff and represents a national trend.”

The hotel and leisure sector index for Cardiff is currently at 50, the UK figure is 34. Mr Constantine says the hotel and leisure sector has been hit harder than any other sector during the third lockdown, but it is encouraging to see an increase since restrictions have eased.

Avison Young expects, given a green light for indoor hospitality on May 17, to see the hospitality sector take a much welcome leap forward, having faced drastic challenges.

The decision by SA Brain to lease its core pubs to Marston’s is an example of the impact that the pandemic has had on many in the leisure sector.

Cardiff’s business bounce back is more than welcomed. The coming months for businesses is evidently expected to be a busy one. With lockdown restrictions and Covid vaccinations, hopefully Cardiff and Welsh businesses will see the benefits.