This is how The Moor in Sheffield will cope with the loss of Debenhams and Dorothy Perkins
Another popular store is set to close on a premier shopping street in Sheffield prompting one expert to outline a path to a future less reliant on retailing.
Online fashion giant Boohoo has bought the Dorothy Perkins, Burton and Wallis brands from Sir Philip Greens collapsed Arcadia empire.
It means the stores will close, with the loss of 2,450 jobs nationally, including a combined Dorothy Perkins and Burton on The Moor in Sheffield city centre.
It follows confirmation that a Debenhams department store, one of the largest buildings on The Moor, will also close permanently later this year.
The losses will leave large gaps in the shopping street, which has become the city’s prime retail destination after a £120m revamp by owner Aberdeen Standard Investments.
Diane Jarvis, of Sheffield Business Improvement District, which covers the city centre, said The Moor had a lot of popular shops and the number of shoppers would rebound once they were allowed to reopen. But the city could no longer rely on retailing and experiences and events would become an increasingly important way to attract people.
She said: “The loss of any physical store is always a hammer blow not least because of the jobs lost. Our hearts go out to those who have lost their jobs because of it.
“Undoubtedly, it is going to leave a gap on the high street. The pandemic has sparked a raft of administrations and restructurings among high street retailers, but they were already in turmoil prior to COVID-19.
“When businesses are allowed to reopen safely, we will see a huge amount of the population go out shopping because it is something people miss. It is a more leisurely and a far more sociable experience than the endless choice of online shopping.
“The Moor has a strong retail proposition and there are plenty like Primark who will rebound quickly when they reopen. Visitors will still have a good choice of high street fashion brands in H&M, Next, River Island and JD and those who mourn the loss of Debenhams have Primark and Atkinsons to fill the void at The Moor, and of course John Lewis nearby.
“The city can no longer rely on retailing – the key is creating an experience that makes people want to be there – more cultural events, music and pop-up theatre need to be part of the experience – just as soon as it is safe to do so.”
Due to separate ownership, Debenhams was not included in The Moor upgrade and has been shabby for years.
Ms Jarvis added: “Vacant premises occupied by Dorothy Perkins will be easier to let or repurpose than large department stores like Debenhams. Chain store closures and declining demand for retail space is causing rents to fall and creating opportunities for shorter lease lengths. This is turn, post Covid, could attract more bars, restaurants, small shops, music and cultural venues as well as community businesses.
“Longer term, the city needs to find more permanent non-retail uses. In the meantime, we need some inventive ways to reuse redundant space. Enterprise arcades, theatre spaces, pop-up museums and artists' studios offer meanwhile use potential. While these sort of activities don't offer a long-term solution for disused retail space, they will help landlords market buildings to prospective tenants.”
On business editor David Walsh’s Linkedin page, people mourned the loss of much-loved brands and suggested new uses for the units.
Retired nurse Elizabeth Frampton, said: “I am old fashioned, I like to actually see the goods and and take them to the nearest mirror to see what they look like!
“Since the 1960s I have been a great fan of all these stores and am also sad about Debenhams. Hopefully Atkinsons will survive so I will have at least one store to go to on the Moor.
“My family have had connections with Atkinsons, my mum was especially sad when the store was bombed in the Blitz and she saw the damage, and she and I were there when the store opened up again in the 60s.”
Brian Fowler, a solicitor at Foys Solicitors, thought independent shops were the way forward.
He said: “It doesn't come as any great surprise that these brands have fallen behind in the age of online shopping. Fast forwarded perhaps as a result of the pandemic.
“Thankfully the brands themselves have been saved and can hopefully prosper under Boohoo's ownership.
“The High Street needs to evolve, not just The Moor and Sheffield, to attract footfall. Post Covid-19 people need a reason to visit The Moor or town in general.
“The focus needs to be given to the whole experience for visitors. Personally, I think the best way for this to happen is for quality independents to get favourable leases or incentives to help them occupy the now vacant spaces.
“Covid-19 has brought massive uncertainty for the high street and retail in general, but at the same time has provided an opportunity to reflect on what we actually want from our high streets going forward.”
Thomas Ward, account manager at Etico Group, said: “Its a horrible loss for Sheffield and footfall on The Moor will surely fall. I can only hope that in the absence of these stores that they are able to be taken up by independent businesses and we can give smaller businesses a place to shine.
“Footfall will return, local business deserves a place, and I hope that this provides much needed change and shed fresh light on The Moor.
“I'm hoping that the absence of bigger brands/major stores will mean that favourable leases can be taken by quality independents, who want to be there and take pride in the community, so we can see that sense of Sheffield return to The Moor.”