Sheffield city centre profits down as shoppers stayed away for fear of violent protests

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SHOPPERS stayed away from the city centre in droves on a day dominated by the 5,000-strong protest against the Lib Dem Spring Conference.

And those who refused to change their normal Saturday routines had mixed feelings about the march, the high visibility policing and the unprecedented security measures.

Many traders saw their takings plummet as South Yorkshire people stayed away from the city centre.

Mothercare on Barker’s Pool closed early on Saturday afternoon after news spread of youths trying to occupy stores on Fargate.

Assistant manager Janet Green said: “Today has been really slow.

“The police advised us to close the shutters if there was any trouble, so that’s what we’re doing.”

By lunch-time on Saturday many stores had seen only a handful of people come into town, and some traders had to employ security guards in case of trouble.

Helen Garrett, manager of the Proper Pasty Shop on Pinstone Street, said: “It was dead yesterday and it’s been worse today.

“Really, trade has been shocking. We’re at least 50 per cent down on the day, and we’ve had to hire a security guard just in case.”

Michael Tynam, manager of electronics store Maplin said: “We were hoping to take £4,000 today. At the moment we’re looking at around £400.

“We’re wasting a perfectly good weekend of trading.”

Sales assistant Luke Simpson added: “I don’t know what these protesters are hoping to achieve. They are just having a shout.”

June Davenport, manager of the Early Learning Centre, said: “We are going to be about 70 per cent down on our usual Saturday takings.

“These events have been well advertised so our customers are staying away.”

Shopper John Eagers, aged 62, from Wadsley, said he was glad to see people making their views known: “Nick Clegg decided to bring this event to his own city and that has only strengthened the protesters’ arms.”

“I think Clegg has let the city down with his behaviour towards the students and the Forgemasters steelworks.

“But that’s why I’m glad to see the conference here. People will come out and really make him suffer more.”

Darren Morton, 37, from Broomhill, said: “I think all this is good for the city’s reputation - it gives Sheffield a bit more prominence.

“I knew there was going to be a big demonstration but I don’t think it’s a problem.”

Lynne Brown from Crookes said: “The hotels will do OK, but I was at the hairdresser’s yesterday and they’d had a lot of cancellations.

“I do find the huge fences off-putting. They are intimidating really and causing so much disruption and to spend £2.2 million on policing is quite amazing.”

Restaurants, taxi firms and hotels had more luck, as 3,000 delegates explored the city.

Ask restaurant near the City Hall, saw a boost in evening trade after demonstrators went home.