The Sheffield department store that blazed a trail for fashion in the 1960s

In case you were in any doubt, the gushing headlines and advertising copy set you straight. “A big day for those who love fashion.” “Everything for the woman of fashion.” “Tomorrow marks a big day in the life of every fashion conscious woman in Sheffield.”

Monday, 20th December 2021, 11:29 am

Wow, some bold claims there. So, what was the occasion?

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Well, April 6, 1962, marked the grand opening of a prestigious new women’s clothes shop in Sheffield city centre.

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The grand opening of Peter Robinson store in 1962

Peter Robinson department store was finally finished and ready to open its doors to the expectant, style-conscious Sheffield female shopper.

And, to be fair, it did sound like quite a grand do.

The great and good were out in force for the big unveil.

Lucky shoppers got a silk scarf, gift vouchers and other freebies.

Waring & Gillow with C&A above

Leading architects had designed the new store, which had emerged from the debris of a war-time ruin which had once been an impressive Montague Burton store at the junction of Angel Street and High Street.

The new shop in Sheffield was part of Peter Robinson’s nationwide expansion, which at its popular peak has an impressive 39 stores across Britain.

It has all mod cons and much to tempt the shopper of the day inside.

The ground-floor had an impressive 1,000 coats to choose from and no expense had been spared on the lavish decor, as a report from the time reveals, in minute detail.

The Peter Robinson store

It was, according to the gushing write-up, ‘decorated in a combination of marble, black leather and olive ash and lime oak woods. This is blended with lilac pink walls and a white ceiling’.

And in the soft knitwear department – yes, there was one, and it was 50-feet long – were ‘well-known brand names, English knitwear, classic designs of twin-sets, heavy knits and elegant knitted sweaters from Italy’.

And the dress department featured ‘new exciting synthetic fabrics’ and ‘glamorous cocktail dresses and eye-catching evening gowns’.

But there was something for all.

The somewhat more bargain basement Pennywise merchandise solved ‘the problem of I have nothing to wear that they haven’t seen before’ without breaking the bank, we were told.

And the ‘Top shop’ section provided something for the hip young trendsetter.

It all sounded so promising and all was well and good during the Sixties but the store, ultimately, didn’t survive the test of time.

In February 1974, it was announced it would close at the end of April – surprising as the store had just undergone a major revamp.

The closure was part of a national reorganisation of Peter Robinson shops, by then a mere subsidiary of the Burton company.

The company had decided to focus on the successful Top Shop stores, which was to continue as an independent store in the building.

By the end of the Seventies, Peter Robinson had all but disappeared from the nation’s high streets.

The building has hosted a few big names since. From 1974, the next-door C&A store took over the top floors with furniture retailer Waring & Gillow trading from the ground floor.

After C&A closed its doors in the 1990s, it became Primark until it upped sticks in 2016, leaving the old department store – like far too many nowadays – depressingly empty.