Newquay is going through a tipping point moment with a wave of new independent businesses opening up in the town, new house building, enviable and alfresco living and new co-working spaces, vegan, gluten-free and a plethora of other new foodie options, community initiatives, high-end dining and nightlife and much more. New flight links are being announced on a regular basis with Cornwall Airport Newquay’s ongoing growth, including four times daily London Heathrow links, Jersey, Guernsey and Copenhagen.
Newquay and its high street is ahead of the game when it comes to superfast broadband which means that ‘connected Newquay’ has been attracting new entrepreneurs who might traditionally have been based in London who now either work from home or commute a few times a week to London from the town’s airport.
Many businesses have noticed a change in customer demographics over very recent years as well as increased business in the shoulder months and this positive effect is reaching businesses across the town. Newquay Activity Centre, for example is seeing a big change in its customers’ accommodation with less staying at surf lodges and more apartments making trips for families and friends more affordable. Its stats show a 22% increase in family bookings in 2018 to 2017. The company has, as a result, created nine specific family activities (three of which are new for 2019). Micro trips and Eventures (Educational Adventures) are also growing in demand.
During winter the business has also seen a significant increase in not only year round surfing and bodyboarding, but also those wanting to try activities for the first time through the winter months. The continuous developments in winter wetsuits mean that cold water is no longer an issue. Newquay Activity Centre now offers surf, body board and Women + Waves coaching weekends in November, February and March and they are easily the company’s busiest coaching weekends of the whole year.
Owner of Lusty Glaze Beach, which was recently lauded the UK’s Number 1 beach in The Sunday Times Best British Beach Guide 2017, Tracey Griffiths reports that the increased footfall at the beach is down to the gradual increase of better quality accommodation in the area. Newquay now has less of the surf lodge, backpacker style offerings and more apartment style accommodation for families and couples has been responsible for this shift in Tracey’s opinion. Tracey comments, ‘As a resident and business owner, I am delighted to see this gradual change – long may it continue.’
Jamie Garfield, co-owner of high end, speakeasy bar, Tom Thumb (which has performed admirably over the past 12 months, winning the Best Bar in Cornwall Award and a Trip Advisor excellence certificate) considers Newquay a brilliant place to do business. Jamie and his business partner set up the cocktail bar after witnessing the increase in housing resulting in a larger permanent population and the increase in independent businesses providing a diverse and supportive business environment.
Jamie associates a greater sense of community and cohesion from the Town Council, business groups and local services such as police, the new frequent Heathrow flights and other new options as driving more business to Tom Thumb.
Jamie says, “At Tom Thumb, we have noticed that the ‘season’ is getting longer. With trade increasing from April, peaking over the summer holidays but remaining healthy until the end of October.”
Sprout Health Food in Newquay is another independent food outlet in the town which has been performing well and growing year on year. Owner Claire feels that there is a shift in the high street from retail to food, stating that there definitely seems to be more emphasis on good quality food establishments with a vibrant local, year-round community that they are so proud to serve.
Surf and design brand, Married to the Sea, which has been operating from Mawgan Porth for ten years opened on Newquay High Street last year, stating, “Business has been really good since we opened with locals and holidaymakers alike”.
The past twelve months has also seen a number of hairdressers and barbers opening up on the high street and a new solicitor too.
The trend is now on entrepreneurs ‘taking a strategic punt’ on Newquay and opening cool, trendy, quirky businesses. A journalist who writes for Chiswick Magazine and recently came on a press trip to Newquay, commented, “Quirky bars, independent restaurants and shops have replaced the tacky high street stores that pedal bawdy beside-the-seaside tat. It’s great to see people are taking a leap of faith and pursuing their dreams within business without the money attributed in London. There is a genuine hive of entrepreneurship in Newquay.”
While there remains a vacancy rate amongst some high street properties – on par with the 10% national average – there seems to be a new energy about the town as traders and the Newquay BID team seeks to transform Newquay’s fortunes for the benefits of all. High rents and business rates are also an issue, as they are in every other town and city in Cornwall, but the mood is buoyant.
A number of hotels are being built, including Blue-chip chain the Premier Inn, and other high-end properties such as The Headland Hotel are expanding with its development of a brand new leisure complex set to open in 2020.
Karen Hoyle, owner of a marketing agency in the town, said, “Newquay has an entrepreneurial spirit I don’t see anywhere else to the point that people are willing to put together proper business plans and take on new units on the high street and are prepared to take a risk. Businesses are willing and keen to get together and regenerate entire areas of the town. They’re not waiting for others to do it for them. They realise that if they pull together then they can make it happen.”
Tourism is a massive industry for Newquay, and hospitality businesses are a vital cornerstone of the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly economy, accounting for 25% of all employment and contributing in excess of £10 billion to the local economy through visitor spend. However, many businesses in Newquay feel that there is a more eclectic mix of tourism businesses now on offer, many of which are independent, meaning the locals are feeling more positive about the direction the town is moving in and are willing to commit to starting their own businesses. Pleasingly the retail outlets that are succeeding (Watershed for example) are independent and have captured the loyalty of the local population and cater to its needs.
Newquay Town Council submitted a stage-two funding bid under the Coastal Community Fund for just under £500,000 to enhance the Killacourt in Newquay. The bid was approved in March, and plans are now underway to transform the Killacourt, retaining it as an important green space that can continue to be relevant for growing events and economic activity.
The Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership has also invested £2million to create a dynamic new workspace on Newquay’s seafront. The C-Space project will fuse business and incubation space with a local produce café and bar, events venue, production studio and retail showcase by partially converting a seaside hotel with stunning views over Towan beach.
C-Space is a collaboration between Newquay-based Crowdfunder, the UK’s No.1 crowdfunding platform; the Cornwall Food Foundation, which manages the Fifteen Cornwall restaurant and apprentice chef programme at Watergate Bay along with community food initiatives across Cornwall; and the Real Ideas Organisation (RIO) which has a track record for developing creative, multi-use spaces in landmark buildings and supporting social enterprise.
In the first five years the project and its partners expect to support over 1,000 enterprises and create almost 80 jobs based in C-Space, with a similar number created externally in start-ups and growth companies.
A licensed café and bar operated by the Cornwall Food Foundation will showcase local food and drink, and there will be retail space where Crowdfunder projects can sell their products. C-Space will be a dynamic and engaging social venue for events and will be open to the community, bringing people together to generate and share ideas.
Executive Chairman, Crowdfunder UK, Rob Love said, “We’re really proud to be bringing something unique to Newquay – giving Crowdfunder a dynamic accessible presence in Cornwall’s most exciting town and catalysing new opportunities for the whole community. We want to work with Newquay and our partners around the world to attract a host of new business to join us in crafting a unique, world-class ‘ideas factory’ in the C-Space which will become the ultimate workspace by the sea.”
Newquay’s event scene is bustling which adds drastically to its economy too. Vision Nine’s Boardmasters Festival, for example, takes place across Fistral Beach and Watergate Bay each August and the festival sees over 80,000 unique visitors attend either one or both festival sites. 240,000 visitor days in Cornwall are generated across this time period. Boardmasters festival goers generate £45million of business revenue for the local, Cornish economy (2017 figures). £22 million of which was directly attributable to the event providing a major boost to the local economy. An independent study by the South West Research Company highlights the extent of spend by consumers on food and drink, accommodation, shopping, entertainment and transport in Newquay town centre and surrounding areas, as well as associated direct business spend on contractors and suppliers by Vision Nine.
Nick Hayman, Partner at Fistral Beach Bar and Director of Newquay Business Improvement District said, “I’m not surprised to see these figures as the impact of the crucial Boardmasters event is absolutely massive for our local businesses, and our local economy. And that impact is not just felt over the next few days where we all increase our employment numbers, and turnover significantly, the knock-on effect lasts for weeks and months. Boardmasters is by far the biggest event in the whole year for Newquay and the surrounds. The buzz, the publicity and the footfall of people of all ages coming into Newquay town and spending and enjoying our shops, our restaurants, our activities and our brilliant coastal lifestyle is phenomenal.”
More than half of 2017 festival goers said this was their first time at the festival, 78% said the event was their main reason for visiting Cornwall and 77% of the attendees also visited Newquay town centre.
Newquay Councillor Andy Hannan said, “At £45 million, the economic impact of Boardmasters for all kinds of businesses across our town, and the surrounding areas, is significant and with current financial uncertainties, this is vital boosted income for our local economy in a host of different ways. The Fistral Beach site draws visitors from all over the country to stay in and around Newquay with the huge choice of hotels, B&Bs, lodges and camping and caravan providers, and whilst they’re here they spend in our shops, bars, restaurants and with our activity providers.”
Councillor Hannan continued, “Boardmasters also brings those who are staying elsewhere in Cornwall into our town to witness the highest levels of surfing and action sports. And it’s evident that even if festivalgoers are staying on site at the Watergate Bay area, they also travel across the town during their stay and head out along the coastline to explore, bringing additional spend to businesses across Newquay, Watergate Bay, Mawgan Porth and beyond. What’s also critical is that lots of these visitors will return to the Newquay time and time again, highlighting the importance of this event in our annual lifestyle destination calendar.”
Vision Nine CEO, Andrew Topham, said; “We’re delighted to see the positive economical impact Boardmasters brings to Cornwall and Newquay. We work alongside many members of the local community from performers, to Cornish contractors and many business owners to deliver a first-class festival. We’re extremely excited to bring so many visitors to Cornwall and showcase the stunning coastline and beaches that Newquay and Cornwall have to offer and looking forward to doing so into 2019 and beyond.”
Cornwall Pride moved to Newquay three years ago and ever since has increased, driving more and more footfall through the town with its entertaining shows and performances. In 2017, footfall was approximately 2,500, increasing to 4,000 in 2018 and set to be sustainable at existing figures this year.
Generally across the town, businesses consider the future bright for Newquay, and are looking forward to a fruitful summer for all neighbouring businesses in town, more independent businesses opening up, positive approved changes to communal areas such as the Killacourt, more organised beach cleans and more businesses focusing on suitability to maintain this beautiful town that so many call home.
Thus far, Brexit effects are being felt but visitors are still coming, although a ‘last minute’ booking mentality is bringing certain challenges for accommodation providers.
Tracey Griffiths of Lusty Glaze said, ‘Brexit uncertainly is certainly not felt amongst our guests’.
Jamie Garfield of Tom Thumb said, ‘We think the uncertainty of the whole fiasco has made people nervous and resulted in more staycations, which is great, but people are waiting to the last minute to book. We would say it is more of an issue for the accommodation providers than our bar.’