OPINION: CITY STORE SUPERSTAR

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Sheffield was once, in many ways, a department store city.

Big family-owned independent shops thrived here in a way which was not necessarily the case in other major urban centres.

Cole Brothers, Cockaynes and Redgates were all hugely popular staples of the city for decades.

Today, for better or worse, just one survives – Atkinsons.

But if the decline of these retail treasure troves is to be mourned, the ongoing presence of that sole survivor is surely a cause for celebration.

On these pages today we report how an ambitious new book recalls the long and distinguished history of the store, which was originally opened as a drapers in 1872 and is now one of the biggest family-owned businesses of its kind in the country.

And in many ways the story of that shop reflects the story of Sheffield too.

It started life with brash and confident entrepreneurship, grew in the late 19th century through innovation and skill, refused to be cowed during the Blitz, expanded confidently in the Sixties and Seventies, reinvented itself to meet the challenges of a changing world during the Eighties and is now at the heart of The Moor’s regeneration, looking forward to a bright future.

Its ongoing popularity, says boss Nicholas Atkinson – the great grandson of the original founder – is, above all else, down to two factors. Great staff who genuinely care not only about the business but their customers too. And, of course, those customers themselves – Sheffielders who have loyally shopped there down the decades.

Most people in the city will have memories of the store – whether that be visiting Santa’s grotto as a child or enjoying/enduring an afternoon in the different departments as an adult.

If you haven’t had a go on Muffin The Mule – a mechanical children’s ride first installed in 1950 and still running for the original 2p a pop today – it’s safe to say you’ve missed out on a treat.

In short, Atkinsons is a real piece of Sheffield history. It is welcome to know it will be part of the future too.