Popular Sheffield shop closing down amid row over business rates

A popular shop in Sheffield city centre is set to close amid a dispute over what the owner claims are unfair business rates.

Saturday, 28th December 2019, 7:18 pm
Updated Tuesday, 31st December 2019, 2:18 pm

Stone The Crows! at Barker’s Pool is known for its extensive range of unusual homeware products, gifts and other items.

It has been at its present home in the former Mothercare shop since 2017 but previously traded from other locations in Sheffield, including on The Moor, over the last 11 years.

The company, which was founded more than 40 years ago by Sheffield couple John and Philippa Allan, also has branches in Dronfield, Leamington Spa and Essex, and Mr Allan said the wholesale division supplies some 1,200 shops across the country.

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A poster announcing the impending closure of the Sheffield city centre branch of Stone The Crows! (pic: @beardydelights, via Twitter)

But posters have recently appeared on the windows of the Sheffield store announcing the branch’s impending closure.

“Genuine closing down sale due to the council’s refusal to address the unfair rates,” they state.

“After over eleven years of trading in Sheffield city centre, we can no longer continue due to the council’s immovable stance on the high level of rates on this site.

“Stone the Crows! has to pay between 268 per cent and 382 per cent more than its high street neighbours and competitors.

“With no reasonable negotiation being possible with the council, we unfortunately can no longer continue trading in the city centre.”

John Allan, the company’s managing director, said he had been in discussions with Sheffield Council since January about its business rates and claimed the council initially offered to help but then said there was nothing it could do.

He said the combination of high rates and falling footfall at Barker’s Pool had left him little option but to shut the branch, which he revealed was set to close for good towards the end of February 2020.

“I was born and bred in Sheffield and we’ve been established since 1978, so this was a difficult decision to make but we pay dramatically more per square metre than any of our three main competitors,” he said.

“We’ve been trying to get some support from the council but every time they’ve come back and said they can’t help us.

“We’ve had about 15 shops over the years in different parts of the country and Sheffield Council is by far the worst I’ve dealt with.

“Our customers are very disappointed because it’s a very nice shop with lots of unusual and quirky items, the likes of which you can’t find at other high street stores.

“The first year we were here, from April 2017 to April 2018, it was a good trading site but with the building of the HSBC offices it changed the whole pedestrian flow and Barker’s Pool became quieter and quieter.

“We’re actively trying to find another commercial site in Sheffield but it’s very difficult.

“We employ around six full-time staff at the store, and some part-time staff, and we’re hoping to take some into our wholesale business but there will be job losses.”

According to Mr Allan’s calculations, Stone The Crows! pays £91.31 per square metre of retail area, compared with £34.02 for the nearby John Lewis store, £29.51 for Debenhams in Sheffield city centre and £23,85 for Atkinsons department store on The Moor.

Business rates are set by central government but collected by local authorities.

According to the Government, companies may be able to get a discount from their local council if they’re eligible for one or more business rates relief schemes.

In November, James O’Hara, who owns the Public bar in Sheffield city centre, revealed the venue was facing an eye-watering 730 per cent rise in costs compared to last year.

He warned that he may have to close the bar due to the whopping increase, and pointed out that the latest rates bill was twice what he paid in rent.

Sheffield Council was unavailable for comment.