Arts, crafts and ‘quirky alternative’ stores have flocked to a shopping arcade in Sheffield city centre.
Bird’s Yard – created in what was two shop units on Chapel Walk – has attracted double the number of tenants expected in its first year.
Sheffield Council, which has provided £100,000 to cover the scheme’s costs for its first year, has revealed there are more than 50 traders based in the building – when just 25 were predicted.
Some of the small retailers have been so successful they are branching out.
Debbie Moon, of Moonko, which sells unusual jewellery and crafts, is preparing for a move to her own shop on Division Street.
Michelle Walton, who manages Bird’s Yard, said: “We opened in January and have had quite a lot of footfall.
“It seems Sheffield people like to shop at places where they are putting money back into local traders.
“Around 99 per cent of the products on sale are made in Sheffield.
“Two of the traders source from further afield but everything is unusual arts, crafts and gifts ideas and we are delighted with how popular the venture is proving.”
Sheffield Council said the aim is for Bird’s Yard to be self-sufficient after this year, with rents from stalls covering costs.
Chapel Walk has also had a makeover, with a new sign at the end highlighting businesses based there, graffiti removal and a deep clean.
A Sheffield Council spokeswoman said: “Chapel Walk is a quirky and alternative area with a number of shops that offer something different to larger high street brands.
“The street has been transformed from an area which had been experiencing declining footfall into an incubation zone for small businesses and independent retailers.”
Coun Julie Dore, Sheffield Council leader, added: “When we started this project we wanted to make Chapel Walk a vibrant and welcoming street again.
“One that provided a strong retail offer and boosted footfall.
“At the heart of the project is Bird’s Yard where entrepreneurs and new retailers could be taken on a journey, helping them progress their idea right through to a stand- alone business.
“Already the project has been a real success.
We wanted 25 businesses to set up in the shop and we’ve already had over 50 in there with some moving on to setting up on their own.
“Although we only have the funding for one year we wanted to do something that would help local businesses grow and flourish – something that lasts for years to come, helping boost the city’s economy and adding valuable jobs for local people.
“We’ve seen some successes but we certainly aren’t getting complacent – there’s still a way to go.”
What the Bird’s Yard retailers say
Evelyn Risner, from Handpicked Books:
“What first attracted me to Bird’s Yard was the opportunity to sell books and test out and develop my business ideas in a city centre location and one which I could afford. I’m really pleased with how it’s gone so far and have a lot of plans.”
Rosie Butcher, from rosiebdesigns:
“It’s an amazing opportunity to have your own work on the busy high street. I have recently worked with the shops nearby, providing vinyl designs for their windows – Andrew’s cafe – all because of the Bird’s Yard and my exposure within the shop. It’s brilliant being able to collaborate with other makers too.”
Bethan Oates, from You Earth Ash Jewellery:
“We were attracted to Bird’s Yard because we’re strong believers in supporting local business. In tough economic times it’s so good to see something supporting small businesses. Bird’s Yard has provided us with a great platform to be able to get our name out there and to reach an audience and gain feedback from those who we would not be able to access by selling online only. It’s also a very affordable way to get our products on the high street.”
Sophie Cooke, from Imogen’s Imagination:
“Bird’s Yard has given me the opportunity to meet people, clients and makers alike that I wouldn’t be able to meet otherwise. The apprentices have helped me to learn where my own skill gaps are in terms of merchandising and training, which will be really useful for future fairs and my plans to run fascinator workshops.”
Nicole Moth, from Velvet Moth:
“We were attracted to Bird’s Yard as we agreed with manager Michelle’s vision and her shop in Leeds was exactly the sort of place we would want to sell our things. We were also attracted to the location. We would love for Chapel walk to become the thriving Arcade it once was. Many of our older customers have told us what a lovely place it was. Hopefully the council and local business will be able to restore that. The shop is run like a cooperative which is great as everyone is passionate about the shop as a whole as well as their own sections. It is like a family in there. It is going from strength to strength and that is a credit to everyone involved.”
Matthew Hulley, from Just Deli:
“The opportunity to show off our products in the city centre alongside other Sheffield producers was the initial draw. Following that came the chance to share knowledge and ideas with the other Yardies. We have really benefited from the location and contacts and it is great when you can tell people your small brand is available in the city centre.”
Catherine Lobley, from Poco Nido:
“Superb opportunity to have all my product range in one place without having to pay expensive rent and business rates. I’m incredibly grateful, for the opportunity afforded to my brand Poco Nido while in its infancy, to Sheffield Council and everyone involved.”