‘Don’t forsake Broadmead’ urges business chief after M&S and Debenhams closures

Vivienne Kennedy, manager of Br’s Business Improvement District, urges people to see the ‘bigger picture’
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A Bristol business chief has urged shoppers not to forsake Broadmead following the closure of its long-standing Marks and Spencer’s store, outlining everything the area still has to offer from historical attractions to sustainable shopping.

The much-loved M&S store permanently downed shutters over the weekend after 72 years on Broadmead, sparking concerns for the area’s future from shoppers, especially after the closure of Debenhams nearby in 2021.

Worryingly, some shoppers even told BristolWorld they now planned to shop in Bath instead, taking crucial business out of Bristol at a time the city is recovering from the pandemic.

But Vivienne Kennedy, manager of Broadmead’s Business Improvement District, is encouraging people ‘not to focus on just one store and think of the bigger picture’ as shopping habits evolve.

Vivienne Kennedy, manager of the Bristol Business Improvement District, outside the Clothing Exchange on Broadmead.Vivienne Kennedy, manager of the Bristol Business Improvement District, outside the Clothing Exchange on Broadmead.
Vivienne Kennedy, manager of the Bristol Business Improvement District, outside the Clothing Exchange on Broadmead.

She said: “I’ve been shopping in Broadmead for over 50 years, along with four generations of my family.

“I don’t recognise the Bristol I see today - it’s constantly changing to match what consumers of the day need.

“Come back in 40 years time and it will be different because it will have adapted.

“Don’t stay away, come down. There’s still plenty for you here.”

Broadmead on a busy day.Broadmead on a busy day.
Broadmead on a busy day.

Food shopping

“M&S will be missed, there’s no doubt that at all - particularly the Food Hall, people love their M&S sandwiches,” added Ms Kennedy.

“But they’ve got plenty of other places to shop for food.”

She highlighted the area had a Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Pret, Greggs and Eat a Pitta.

Independent shops

“We have over 100 independent retailers in Bristol,” said Ms Kennedy. “People forget that almost a third of our retailers are independent and many of them are here on Broadmead.

“What’s important to note is that these retailers support hundreds of local artists.

An exterior view of the Victorian-era Arcade - located in the shopping quarter in Bristol.An exterior view of the Victorian-era Arcade - located in the shopping quarter in Bristol.
An exterior view of the Victorian-era Arcade - located in the shopping quarter in Bristol.

“A good example of this is the Card Shack in The Arcade, which stocks locally-sourced cards and artwork.

Historic gems

Bristol’s main shopping quarter was originally based at Castle Park before the area was bombed in the Second World War.

Broadmead was redeveloped as the city’s shopping district in 1950, and while many of the buildings are post-war, chances are you’ve been walking past sites of vast historical significance without even knowing it.

Exterior view of the historic New Room, also known as John Wesleys First Chapel on Broadmead. Built in 1739 by John Wesley, it is the oldest Methodist chapel in the world.Exterior view of the historic New Room, also known as John Wesleys First Chapel on Broadmead. Built in 1739 by John Wesley, it is the oldest Methodist chapel in the world.
Exterior view of the historic New Room, also known as John Wesleys First Chapel on Broadmead. Built in 1739 by John Wesley, it is the oldest Methodist chapel in the world.

“The John Wesley Chapel, also known as the New Room, is the oldest Methodist chapel in the world.

“It’s a listed building and is now home to an amazing museum and a cafe,” said Ms Kennedy. “We get a lot of tourists visiting, particularly from America and South Korea.

“John Wesley was a keen abolitionist and the press briefing ahead of the Colston 4 trial was held here. His voice is still very relevant today.

“My favourite fact is that the hymn Hark, the Herald Angels Sing that we were all singing at Christmas was written by John Wesley’s brother.

The former Greyhound coaching inn.The former Greyhound coaching inn.
The former Greyhound coaching inn.

“If you ever come to the chapel to sing it, chances are you’re singing it in the first place it was ever sung. It’s so worth a visit.”

Broadmead is also home to The Greyhound, a former coaching inn that now forms the entrance to The Galleries, and of course The Arcade which dates back to 1825 and still houses independent shops.

Sustainable shopping

Broadmead is home to a growing movement of shops selling sustainable and vintage clothing such as Sobeys, the Clothing Xchange and Beyond Retro.

“Bristol is a super eco-conscious city and Broadmead is actually a great place to pick up sustainable clothing that’s way better for the environment,” said Ms Kennedy.

Sobey’s vintage clothing store in the Arcade.Sobey’s vintage clothing store in the Arcade.
Sobey’s vintage clothing store in the Arcade.

“For example we have the Clothing Exchange which sells high-end and designer pre-loved clothes.

“For the price of a high street coat you could pick up a designer coat from there. It’s great, I’ve got my eye on a few handbags.”

Leisure

“It’s not just about shops,” said Ms Kennedy. “There are a load of leisure activities available in Broadmead.

“You can go to the Odeon cinema or take the kids to a soft play area in the Galleries.

“The Galleries is also home to a bingo hall or you could play crazy golf or have a go at an escape room in Cabot Circus.”