SHOPKEEPERS in a Sheffield suburb have called for business rate relief, better car parking and a loyalty card scheme to encourage customers to visit small shops to help restore flagging fortunes.
Traders say business in Hillsborough has deteriorated in the last two decades, with problems including disruption when Supertram was built to lack of parking and dominance of supermarkets.
Three more superstores - Asda at Parson Cross, Sainsbury’s at Clay Wheels Lane, and Tesco at Spital Hill - are currently being developed.
The Federation of Small Businesses, Sheffield Council’s North Sheffield Regeneration Team, and Hillsborough Forum have organised a meeting to discuss how to restore the area as a retail hub.
But Noel Lecre, of The Fireplace Shop, Langsett Road, Hillsborough Corner, said: “Only a bomb could improve the area. I’ve been here 50 years and it used to be brilliant because there was a range of proper stores. Now there are more estate agents, charity shops and hairdressers than anything else.
“The tram made it worse. After disruption from building it, the traffic restrictions then imposed kept people out. Greater tax relief for small shops could help - business rates are high.”
Ray Plant, who recently opened Sweet Memory Lane sweet shop on Middlewood Road, said: “I think we need a bit more variety to make the area successful. There are too many of the same types of shops and you can’t do all your shopping in this area.
“A big problem is that, although there is car parking, it’s off the main roads and there’s nowhere for people to pull up if they are just passing and see a shop they want to stop at. The council has given small businesses some relief from rates but it runs out in August. If it was continued, that would help.”
Mark Talbot, of Talbot’s Butchers, a few doors up, said: “We’ve been here since 1948 as a family business. Parking is not the only problem. Other issues include how the Co-op has been left half empty, which has made things worse. Twenty to 30 years ago the area was a lot busier and we had queues out of the door.
“We have loyal customers because we have been established a long time but this year has not been so good. A loyalty scheme to reward people who shop at local stores instead of big supermarkets might help.”
But Alan Crookes, who runs Corner News at the corner of Middlewood Road and Dykes Hall Road, said: “Nothing will make a difference. The problem is all the chain stores - small shops cannot compete. We are not allowed to have the lottery because there’s one across the road at the Co-op - yet they are allowed to sell newspapers.”
Mike Brownhill, of Brownhill Electrical, Middlewood Road, said: “Trade has virtually vanished in the 30 years since I’ve been here.
“The tram seems to have a priority of taking people to Meadowhall rather than getting them into the suburbs. And we need better car parking.”
Andrew Flower, South Yorkshire chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “It is vital people in the area do something now if Hillsborough is to maintain its time-honoured status as the shopping hub of north Sheffield.”
n The meeting is at the new office of Hillsborough Forum at 9 Proctor Place, the old florists, at 6pm on Tuesday, May 24. To attend call 0114 203 9568.