Sheffield city centre bounces back after lockdown as shoppers seek fresh air and freedom

Retail in Sheffield city centre has bounced back from lockdown after shoppers chose the ‘clear advantage’ of space, fresh air and freedom.

By David Walsh
Friday, 18th December 2020, 4:45 pm

Footfall is 70 per cent of normal, and rising, bosses say, partly due to increased awareness of the importance of supporting local firms.

The Moor was bustling on the last Friday before Christmas, a notable increase on earlier in the week.

But it was not all good news.

The Moor was bustling on Friday December 18. Picture Scott Merrylees

Debenhams was advertising a closing down sale.

A spokesman for administrators of the 124-store chain said 150 staff worked at branches on The Moor and Meadowhall. The wind-down of the business was set to complete in the first quarter of next year if no buyer was found, he added.

Dorothy Perkins and Burton on The Moor also had a sale on. It faces an uncertain future as part of the Arcadia Group, which has five other shops in the city, and is in administration.

Gap and a newly-opened flagship H&M on The Moor also had big pre-Christmas discounts.

Christine Bastock was out for the first time in six months.

The Moor Market had a successful promotion last weekend which saw it give away 1,600 £5 vouchers, driving numbers to just shy of its 8,000 target.

And despite its toughest year, the centre has only lost two stalls - and gained four in 2020 - including a Hungarian deli run by Zoltan Keresztes selling hampers, chocolates, meat and booze.

The bounce back comes despite new figures which show online shopping is now 31 per cent of retail in the UK, up 75 per cent on this time last year.

Diane Jarvis, manager at Sheffield Business Improvement District, said fresh air, freedom from one-way systems and being able to remove masks on exiting shops gave the city centre ‘clear advantages’ over indoor shopping malls.

A flagship H&M on The Moor is now open. Picture Scott Merrylees

She added: “People complain about the city centre, but it’s the safest place. Footfall shot back up after the second lockdown and is still rising. People are very willing come out and support local businesses.”

Christine Bastock was out for the first time in six months.

She said: “My husband shops online a lot but I prefer the shops and I’ve come to meet friends. Let’s get it over and done with now, I want the vaccine so I can go to the pub.”

Cindy and Tom Spooner from Hillsborough said they felt people still ‘didn’t quite get’ social distancing. But they were glad to be out after working 70-hour weeks, her in a care home and him in a hospital.

Hospital worker Tom Spooner from Hillsborough felt some shopper still 'didn't get' social distancing.

Christine Briggs of Wincobank said she did not buy online and everything she needed was in the shops.

“It’s busy today, I came yesterday and it wasn’t like this. I’ll be back next week for extra food and odd bits. I prefer coming to town, Meadowhall is so hot and I like to get fresh air.”

Dave Healy of Chefchef.store - The Moor Market’s online retail service - said there was a constant flow of people and he expected it to get busier as people bought fresh produce for Christmas.

Christine Briggs of Wincobank. Picture Scott Merrylees

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Closing down sale at Debenhams on The Moor.
Zoltan Keresztes has opened a Hungarian deli in The Moor Market selling hampers, chocolates, meat and booze.
The Moor Market is busy again, although numbers are restricted.
Fargate on the last Friday before Christmas. Picture Scott Merrylees