Last Saturday was Cardiff’s inaugural City of the Arcades Day, celebrating the city’s seven historic arcades and shining a spotlight on the more than 100 independent and creative businesses housed within them.

 

The seven Victorian and Edwardian arcades - Dominions, Duke Street, High Street, Castle, Morgan, Royal and Wyndham – are in the heart of the city and are an integral part of its identity. It could be argued that they are one of Cardiff’s most iconic features.

Exploring the maze of quaint shops and eateries, nestled in historic Victorian and Edwardian architecture, is a unique shopping experience. Although the stores within may have changed over the years, the arcades remain intrinsically linked with the past.

To raise the profile of the city's independent stores and establish Cardiff as the City of Arcades, FOR Cardiff launched a campaign. Since its inception last year it has gone from strength to strength and was recently recognised with a Downtown Achievement Award of Excellence by the International Downtown Association. Following this success FOR Cardiff created a day that would boost trade and celebrate one of Cardiff's unique selling points. 

On Saturday (16 November) the City of Arcades Day brought all seven arcades to life with events, fancy dress and music. Cafés, stores and eateries threw their doors open throughout the day and live music by local artists filled the arcades well into the night. The aim was to boost trade and support the network of independent businesses as well as drawing attention to their everlasting appeal. It was hailed a success with more than 90 businesses taking part and a 6% rise in footfall from the previous year. According to a survey conducted with the businesses, The Day of Arcades welcomed more than 300 additional visitors and sales were up by more than 40%.

Carolyn Brownell from FOR Cardiff said: "75% of the businesses have rated the event as very good or excellent. Most importantly the majority are reporting that their sales were up, some by over 60% compared to an average Saturday so we're delighted with the result." 

Events ranged from a poetry reading at Waterloo Tea, two fashion shows, the Arcades Project Art exhibition, a special showcase of gins at Gin & Juice, a speciality Arcades Day cocktail and live music througout curated by Cardiff-based music label, PYST. You can find out more about these events and the business involved, here. Talking about the most popular events on the day FOR Cardiff said: "The tours conducted by the Morgan Quarter sold out within days, showing that people want to learn more about the arcades and their history, which is something we want to place more emphasis on next year."

The arcades house a number of creative talents including independent Welsh jeweller, Buddug, and Amy Mair’s bridal boutique as well as sustainable fashion stores, Sobeys, Prince and Pauper & Hobos. Waterloo Tea currently sits in first place on the top 10 businesses list, chosen by the citizens of Cardiff. 

We asked FOR Cardiff why they think the Arcades are such an important part of Cardiff’s identity and what are their future plans for the City of Arcades: "They really are Cardiff’s USP, no other place has the mix of Victorian and Edwardian arcades that Cardiff has. We want to bring the event back. We're consulting with businesses as to when would be the best time to do it."

Explore the Arcades. 

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