Sheffield’s oldest shop shuts as long delays in city centre regeneration takes its toll

Simon Bower of Pollards, Charles Street.
Simon Bower of Pollards, Charles Street.
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SHEFFIELD’S longest-serving retailer shuts its doors for the final time tomorrow - forced to close because of the long delays that have plagued the planned regeneration of the city centre.

For 132 years Pollards Tea and Coffee has offered a haven for shoppers visiting the once-bustling stores of The Moor and Pinstone Street.

But tomorrow 18 workers will be forced out of a job and a Sheffield institution will be consigned to history, as managing director Simon Bower admits mounting losses makes survival impossible.

Mr Bower, aged 41, has put the blame for the closure firmly at the doors of Sheffield Council and Hammerson, the giant development company that was meant to turn the city centre into a £600 million retail quarter.

The Sevenstone project, conceived at the height of the economic boom, has been on hold since January 2009 - and Mr Bower says he can no longer operate in isolation, surrounded by empty units.

“It has not been the recession that has done this - it’s the complete mismanagement of a massive regeneration project,” he said.

“Everything has closed around us. All the council has been doing is putting art in empty shop fronts - which helps nobody. And Hammerson are investing anywhere but Sheffield.

“Footfall has diminished and there is nobody walking past the shop.

“We are operating in gross isolation.”

Sheffield Council’s cabinet member for business Coun Ian Auckland said his officers had been working hard to make the new retail project a reality.

He said: “Whilst I’m sorry to see Pollards close, as a council we are doing all we can to bring Sevenstone forward as well as maintaining footfall around the area.

“This is a difficult time for business all round and especially given the increased competition in this sector over recent years.

“It may be bold to say, but I’d argue that Pollards has been a victim of the current economic climate, not the council.”

Mr Bower told The Star the drop-off in trade began when fellow retailers began to leave the area between The Moor and Barker’s Pool, making way for the planned building work to begin.

Since 2008 his turnover has dropped 45 per cent and he claims footfall on Charles Street has fallen from 700 a day to around 70.

He said: “If Hammerson had gone through with their plans in 2008 or 2009 they would have had to pay to relocate us.

“We would have been able to relocate to an area that wasn’t derelict. But now it’s too late. I have been supporting the business personally over the last two years but I just can’t do that any more.”

Mr Bower said five staff will be retained at the separate Pollards coffee wholesale business, which operates in Tinsley.

But he said the closure was “a tragedy” for the 18 staff who will lose their jobs tomorrow, some of who have been working on Charles Street for 26 years.