'Zombie' shopping centre completely empty after every store moves out

·3-min read
The shopping centre has been described as
The shopping centre has been described as "zombie-land". (Wales News Service)

A shopping centre in southeast Wales is facing closure after all its stores moved out.

Festival Park shopping centre in Ebbw Vale, Gwent, has been described by locals as "zombie-land".

More than 40 companies such as M&S, Nike, Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Costa and Gap have exited amid a retail slump exacerbated by the cost of living crisis.

It was left with just a single Sports Direct store after independent traders moved out - but even that has now closed because hardly anyone was going there.

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Footfall on UK high streets declined by 15.9%. (Wales News Service)
Footfall on UK high streets declined by 15.9%. (Wales News Service)

The tax-funded shopping centre was opened in 1992, with Prince Charles, singer Dannii Minogue and actress Catherine Zeta-Jones all turning up.

It was the heart of the government's plans to transform derelict land in Ebbw Vale.

Shop owner Kim Maguire moved to the town centre high street - even though her John Jenkins gift shop was one of the original stores on the site.

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She said: "I still regularly hear from customers about how much they miss Festival Park though, and how shocked they all are at what has happened to it over the last few years.

"It was a sad day when it closed for me as a business and for the community as a whole. Everyone who worked there misses it as well, though we are now in a larger shop further towards the centre of town."

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The area is being converted into a mixed-use business centre. (Wales News Service)
The area is being converted into a mixed-use business centre. (Wales News Service)

Kelvin Morgan, who once ran a fresh fruit and veg shop in Festival Park, also said he had been desperately sad to see the site's decline after leaving more than a year ago.

He added: "It used to be so beautiful over there with all the flower gardens and shops so to see it as it is now is very sad.

"I even remember the excitement when it opened as the Garden Festival, and you used to have hundreds of people over there when it first changed to a shopping centre after that. "

It comes as UK footfall stalled in July as record temperatures and the rising cost of living deterred people from visiting local shops.

Festival Park shopping center, Ebbw Vale, Blaenau Gwent, South Wales, UK. (Photo by: Geography Photos/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
The shopping centre used to be busy. (Getty)

Footfall on high streets declined by 15.9%, two percentage points worse than last month’s rate and steeper than the three-month average decline of 14.4%.

Shopping centre visits were down 24.8% on three years earlier.

This was on top of the long-term closure of high street stores which have struggled to deal with rising rents, competition from online retailers and the pandemic.

Mercia Real Estate, a privately-owned real estate investment company, bought Festival Park shopping centre last year.

It wants to convert the location into a “mixed-use business centre.”