As The Star launches its Shop Local campaign today, turning the spotlight on Sheffield’s proud local shops, reporter Nik Brear visited Sharrow Vale Road, one of the city’s busiest ‘village shopping suburbs’, to find out exactly why local really is better...
The friendly smile and wink that greet me as I walk in the door are as synonymous with local shopping as the jangly bell over the door.
The shop before me is a sea of delights and I can feel my eyes being pulled in a dozen different directions.
“It is a visually exciting shop,” agrees Joe Doldon, aged 26, who works at The Framery on Sharrow Vale Road.
And there’s a good reason for that, he tells me. The manager, Sue Tideswell, sources and handpicks all the stock herself, filling the unit with a real mish-mash of unique and one-off products.
“People love to come and take their time rummaging around while chatting to us about all the different pieces,” he adds proudly.
And, just like that, Joe has hit the nail on the head as to what local shopping means.
“Unlike the national chain stores, every customer is important to us and our reputation is everything,” he explains.
“Where their focus is on profits and margins, ours is on building and maintaining relationships.”
The Framery opened its doors 30 years ago and, despite the recession, business is booming.
“We have a really loyal local customer base and we get a lot of the same faces popping in again and again which is great,” says Joe.
Across the road, shop owner Annie Hicks is a relative newcomer to the sub-community that is Sharrow Vale Road - where regular market Sundays take place every few months, closing the road to traffic.
She opened her shop Indie Heart, which specialises in woollen products, just six weeks ago and says the community has already exceeded her expectations.
“As soon as this unit became available, I pounced on it,” she says excitedly.
“I only live around the corner and I know what a great place Sharrow Vale Road is. It reminds me a lot of Portobello Road in London, filled with creatives, artisans, independent shops, fresh food - a real mixed bag of shopping all in one little road.”
Annie, 43, is passionate about local shopping and knows exactly what small businesses like hers bring.
“It’s all about personalised customer service, having time for people and building a relationship with them, so you can better provide what they need,” she says.
“If you go shopping to Meadowhall you could be absolutely anywhere, any other city in the country.
“There’s no personality, nothing that defines it as Sheffield, but in your local high streets it’s like the good old fashioned way of shopping, when everything was on your doorstep, you could get there on foot, and smile and greet everyone you met along the way.”
A few doors down, at Sharrow Vale Hardware, owner Fran McNamara agrees.
“You can’t beat the personal touch,” she says simply.
“We offer everything the big chains do but usually at a better price, with better service and, often, with more knowledge of the products.
“We also specialise in traditional products, such as Stardrops, Borax and Epsom Salts, that you just can’t get in other places anymore.
“Our customers know that they’re getting a personal, quality service from us and that’s what keeps them coming back.”
Fran, 28, and her partner Nigel have run the store for two-and-a-half years and say they feel incredibly lucky to be a part of Sharrow Vale’s community.
“This street is always growing, always getting better, and there’s always something new and exciting coming along to attract more people,” she smiles.
“It’s a really lovely shopping experience and that’s something Sheffield can be really proud to offer.”