Sheffield shopping crisis: Shops closing and retail space lost as Covid-19 takes it toll

Sheffield has lost more retail space than almost anywhere else in the UK, with a double whammy of coronavirus and growing online sales blamed for widescale shop closures.

Tuesday, 13th October 2020, 8:48 am

A whopping 20,000sqm of retail space has vanished across the city – equivalent to nearly 80 tennis courts – a study by law fire Boodle Hatfield found.

That’s more than anywhere except Manchester, Kingston upon Hull and Coventry, out of 353 areas in England and Wales which were covered by the study.

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Sheffield has lost 20,000sqm of retail space

The amount of retail floorspace in Sheffield has decreased from 1,214,000sqm in 2018/19 to 1,194,000 in 2019/20 – an annual drop of 1.6 per cent.

The figures are for floorspace which has been permanently taken out of retail use, rather than shops which are simply vacant.

Boodle Hadfield claims the moratorium on evicting tenants who are unable to pay their rent due to coronavirus may be masking the true impact of the pandemic on the sector, with even more retail space likely to be lost once that is lifted.

The company claims coronavirus has accelerated the shift away from bricks and mortar retail to ecommerce, with traditional retailers suffering most from the enforced closure during lockdown.

Simon Williams, partner and head of property at the firm, said: “The retail landscape is continuing to contract with more and more space being taken out of use. The more severe the locidown rules the faster this decline.

"Should the moratorium on evictions be lifted at the start of 2021, many retailers will be in an extremely vulnerable position, particularly if coronavirus restrictions keep Christmas shoppers away – which is the key period the year. The next few months will be crucial for the sector.

"City centres have struggled to recover as people choose to shop locally or online. Should this trend continue, we could see vast swaths of prime retail space taken out of use.”

Fargate in Sheffield city centre was recently likened to an ‘abandoned town’ due to the number of businesses having left what was one of the city’s premier shopping streets, .

But The Moor has undergone a major regeneration in recent years and work on the £480 million Heart of the City II transformation, set to include an upmarket hotel with a rooftop restaurant and bar, is pressing ahead.