The Wales Air Ambulance Charity is to invest in Caernarfon with the introduction of a larger retail outlet and proposed community hub.

The lifesaving charity has taken on the lease of the former Argos site on Pool Side. The two-story building will offer a large retail area for customers while the additional first-floor space will allow the Charity to create meeting rooms and communal areas for employees and the wider community. The Charity is also exploring the opportunity of introducing a small coffee bar that will complement its larger café offering at Caernarfon Airport.

The new Caernarfon site will be the hub for the Charity’s north-west Wales retail operation. Its accessibility will see it become a public donation centre, with storage facilities and vehicle access that will allow it to service other Wales Air Ambulance shops in the region.   

David Williams, the Charity’s Caernarfon Shop Manager, said: “This is such an exciting development for our charity and the community in and around Caernarfon. The increased space will allow us to receive and sell bigger donated items, such as furniture, while we can welcome our supporters, volunteers and the wider community who will be able to meet each other in our communal spaces.

“Most importantly, the facility will play a key role in raising much-needed funds to maintain our lifesaving service. In our area, Gwynedd, we attended 225 life or limb-threatening emergencies during 2021.”

Caernarfon has been chosen as the first location in Wales for development as part of the Charity’s new retail blueprint, which was influenced by feedback from employees, supporters and volunteers during a recent strategic review.

Dr Sue Barnes, Wales Air Ambulance Chief Executive, said: “Through our surveys, our supporters and volunteers told us that the strength of our charity is in its community focus. As an organisation that was created by the people of Wales for the people of Wales, we have embedded ourselves within communities across the country. Our shops are not just retail outlets, they are part of the community they serve. This is something that people would like us to continue and strengthen, and it has become one of the focal points of our new strategy.”

The new Wales Air Ambulance retail blueprint aims to strike a balance between generating income for its lifesaving service while enhancing the Charity’s community presence across the country.

Dr Barnes continued: “Our Charity has a longstanding relationship with Caernarfon and there is an incredible network of passionate volunteers and supporters in the region. That is why the town has become the first area to lead the way in delivering our retail blueprint. This site will become a beacon for Wales Air Ambulance in north-west Wales and we hope that it will become a multi-functional, community-focused space.

“Everything we do is focused on ensuring that we remain driven by the people of Wales and their needs. We have a duty to make the best use of the donations gifted to us while employing those funds to deliver the most effective emergency service for our nation.”

The new facility is expected to open later this year. Until then, the Charity will continue to operate from its current shop location on High Street. 

The Wales Air Ambulance Charity needs to raise £8 million every year to keep its emergency helicopters in the air and its rapid response vehicles on the road.

The 24/7 emergency service offers advanced critical care and is often described as a ‘Flying ED’. The on-board consultants and critical care practitioners are highly skilled and carry some of the most pioneering medical equipment in the world. They can deliver blood transfusions, administer anaesthesia, and undertake emergency operations at the scene of the incident, before flying the patient directly to specialist care.