COLUMN: Street seller frustration not helping Fargate

Shoppers on Fargate, Sheffield
Shoppers on Fargate, Sheffield
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No, I don’t want to buy an overpriced family photograph from an unknown studio.

Signing up to donate £5 a month to charity is not on the agenda this lunchtime, and that new gym holds no attraction when I already hold a membership, thanks. 
Welcome to the daily frustrations of navigating Fargate in Sheffield city centre. Walking down what is supposed to be our premier shopping street has become an exercise in subterfuge.

Sunglasses on, earphones in or eyes clamped firmly on my phone - the message ‘not interested’ could not be any clearer.

But still they approach. The chuggers - charity muggers - and street sellers flogging joke books are made of hardier stuff than to be put off by a fast stride and a roll of the eyes.

You’d think there would be a council limit as to how many were allowed to operate on any one day, but sometimes getting to the town hall from Star headquarters can involve three stops. This doesn’t apply to hotdog stands, the religious groups silently handing out leaflets or Sheffield Wednesday Wembley merchandise touts, because shoppers are allowed to walk on by past those stalls without being approached, pleaded with or given fake compliments. Going there is a choice, and they are catering for demand, which is how it should be.

This glut of the other kind of street seller can’t be doing anything for Sheffield as a shopping destination. Much as I try to avoid busy Meadowhall, at least getting around the shops is possible without someone shouting: ‘Hello, lady in the blue shirt.’

I’ve started taking a detour down Chapel Walk and past The Crucible. It’s better for the sanity, if not the bank balance, as it involves passing more coffee houses and independent shops selling things I absolutely do not need, but really, really want, like a flamingo lightshade, chutneys and new cooking gadgets.

And don’t even get me started on the collectors who come to the house at 8.30pm on a wet Tuesday, when you’ve finally sat down to dinner or have a chance to catch up with some life admin.

Yes, charities and businesses have to make money to keep going. That’s why I support those causes that mean something to me and use independent shops as much as possible. I try to be polite to the individuals too, they are only paying the bills.

But someone should at least make badges that read: ‘Do not approach.’ Now that’s something I would be interested in purchasing.