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Pop-Up shops lead 'Open for Christmas' campaign

Pop-up shops in empty high street stores should be better encouraged and entirely exempt from business rates.

That’s the leading call from Welsh Conservatives in a new campaign aimed at boosting and supporting Welsh high streets.

Launched today at a successful Christmas pop-up in Penarth, Open for Christmas focuses on the importance of the festive period and introduces a number of measures that could be adopted immediately:

More festive pop-up stores in empty shops, with business rates scrapped for the period of opening

Christmas Miles: Local discounts for Christmas shopping, with a stamp card used to acknowledge local purchases and retrieve rewards. This could encourage more Christmas goods to be bought locally

Free parking – or innovative parking solutions – every week throughout the festive period

Town centre website offers – retrievable in local shops

Late night shopping discounts on food and drink

The Conservative-led UK government has already introduced new proposals to re-activate empty shops and reclaim underused street space, while the Small Business Saturday campaign will see a number of UK high streets benefiting from measures to attract shoppers on December 6th.

Welsh Conservatives are calling for the Welsh Labour government to work with local authorities and town planners to encourage entrepreneurs to set up temporary pop-ups.

Two stores neighbouring Penarth’s Christmas market pop-up have recently made the move to permanent stores, highlighting the potential for longevity following success.

Welsh Conservatives have long called for all small businesses to be taken out of business rates altogether. Labour ministers in Wales have yet to introduce what would be a hugely beneficial move for the Welsh economy. Today’s drive calls on them to scrap business rates for pop-ups immediately.

Further measures to encourage local shopping include a stamp card rewards scheme (Christmas Miles), free parking, website offers and late night shopping discounts.

11,685 retail businesses in Wales closed between 2002 and 2012 - 12 per cent of all business closures in Wales over this period. The high street vacancy rate in Wales is 12.7 per cent, compared to a UK average of 10.1 per cent. In 2013, around 72 billion pounds was spent across the UK during the Christmas period, which is charted from mid-November until the end of December.

Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Business, William Graham AM, said:

“Pop-up shops can be a huge advantage on the high street, particularly in the run-up to Christmas.

“Scrapping business rates and encouraging and supporting entrepreneurs to set them up should be prioritised by the Welsh government.

“The high street is in decline and Welsh Conservatives are committed to seeing more measures put in place to encourage local shopping.

“Free parking, website offers and a reward scheme for buying locally could all be implemented right now – with immediate effect in the run-up to Christmas.

“The festive season is an ideal opportunity to remind people of the huge benefits that local shopping can bring. Councils, town planners and Labour ministers should be working together to boost footfall and reduce the vacancy rate.”

Shadow Minister for Regeneration, Welsh Conservative Assembly Member Byron Davies, said:

“With the highest average shop vacancy rate in the UK, pushing Christmas pop-ups and supporting their introduction is an ideal way of boosting business and promoting the high street.

“We want to see serious consideration given to free parking and rewards for shopping locally.

“Christmas is the perfect time to get new measures in place and show people just how crucial the high street can be for local communities.

“Pop-ups in particular can lead to long-term sustainability and, like the Conservative-led UK government, I want to see Labour ministers recognising their potential by putting measures in place to support them.