Sheffield dad reveals why he bought famous Cole Brothers’ name - and his ambitions plans
A man who bagged the famous ‘Cole Brothers’ name insists his intentions are honourable and he did it 'for the benefit of the people of Sheffield'.
Simon Jones, aged 52, of Beauchief, said he was amazed when he saw the city's most famous retail name was up for grabs - and registered it to himself.
His dream was to see the closure-threatened Barker's Pool store ‘resuscitated’ and the 299 jobs restored.
And he was keen to do deals with businesspeople, retailers and the city council - with help from thousands of the store's supporters - to get it back open again.
Cole Brothers was established in Sheffield in 1847. It became John Lewis in 2002. Last month, the firm announced plans to close the shop saying it ‘could not be profitably sustained’.
The move sparked an outcry at the loss of a vital and much-loved part of the city centre’s retail offer.
Mr Jones, a manager at a food manufacturer, said he had been discussing the sad news with his wife when he decided to check the name.
He spent less than £100 incorporating a new company called Cole Brothers Ltd and registering the domain ‘colebrothers.uk’.
He said the main reason was to protect it for the people of Sheffield.
He added: “I’m not precious about it. I’m keen to work with well-funded people ready to resuscitate and restore the shop in Barker’s Pool.
“I didn’t acquire it for financial gain. I would only sell it for the benefit of the people of Sheffield to help relaunch a flagship store in the city. Whatever happens, at least the name is safe.”
Cole Brothers was an institution that was important for Sheffield’s ‘identity and dignity’ and harked back to a more prosperous time, he added.
Mr Jones said he would like see a new store boasting a Waitrose food hall and a Ponsford furniture franchise, among others.
And he had emailed the £480m Heart of the City II scheme, which has the six-storey building at its heart.
He added: “There are a lot of people who need the John Lewis store to trade.”
People were social animals who had been shopping online ‘of necessity’ but were heading back into town, he added.
And John Lewis bosses recently told Sheffield MPs the store was profitable before the pandemic.
“I think closing it is the wrong decision. People are fed up of buying online and that store, which even has its own smell, speaks to all our senses.”
Selling shares or a crowdfunder so it was ‘owned by Sheffield people’ were also possibilities ‘for those who wanted to do more than sign a petition’.
Some 24,000 people have signed a petition against the closure proposal.
The strength of feeling was further shown by Emily Maitlis, Jeremy Clarkson who had written love letters to the store in the national press following the announcement, he added.
Earlier this year, John Lewis posted a £517m loss, blaming it on the pandemic and internet shopping.
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