Shoppers in Sheffield react as John Lewis announces closure of its Barker’s Pool store

“It’s a really sad day.” – Shoppers in Sheffield have spoken as the city’s high street has been dealt yet another blow after John Lewis announced the closure of its store in the former Cole Brothers building.

Wednesday, 24th March 2021, 5:13 pm

John Lewis has announced today (Wednesday, March 24) that it will officially close the Sheffield city centre store despite Sheffield City Council buying out John Lewis’ leasehold interest for £3.4 million to sign a new 20-year contract.

The company announced it could no longer ‘profitably sustain’ the shop on Barker’s Pool, and it was not planning to reopen it after lockdown.

It is likely that 299 people will lose their job, but a spokesperson for the retail giant said that a consultation would take place with the affected Sheffield Partners about their proposals - should they proceed, alternative roles will be found for as many people as possible.

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John Lews in Sheffield City Centre is set to close. Picture: Chris Etchells

Sharon White, chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, said: “We appreciate this is incredibly difficult news for our Partners and the people of Sheffield.

"We are acutely aware of our long history in the city and are hugely grateful to all our customers in Sheffield for their loyalty, our Partners for their outstanding work over the years and Sheffield City Council for its continued support.

"While the shop was financially challenged prior to the pandemic, we were determined that with additional investment, we would be able to play a key role in the regeneration of the city centre.

“However, the pandemic has had an irreversible impact on retail, and we must make difficult decisions to ensure the Partnership is sustainable in the future.”

John Lews in Sheffield City Centre is set to close. Vox pop - pictured is Viki Sethel. Picture: Chris Etchells

Patrick Duffy, head of branch for John Lewis Sheffield, said: “John Lewis holds a special place in my and many people’s hearts in Sheffield, as we have had a presence in the city since 1940.

"We are incredibly proud of the long and valued legacy of service we’ve held in Sheffield and thank our customers for shopping with us over many years. I also want to thank our partners for all their hard work as we continue to support them through the consultation period.”

The news follows the closure of Debenhams and the Arcadia Group stores, including Topshop, in the city centre and is a huge blow to Sheffield’s once-booming high street.

John Lews in Sheffield City Centre is set to close. Vox pop - pictured is Miriam Smart. Picture: Chris Etchells

Now, the people of Sheffield have had their say.

Viki Sethel said: “Personally, I’m gutted because I do a lot of shopping online, but I go to John Lewis for the experience because I like to peruse and smell all the perfumes, and you can’t get that online.

"I’m gutted for the employees as well because I imagine there are loads of people that work there, so yeah, it’s just sad.

"I’m all for online shopping, I think it’s helpful during Covid, but you do miss something."

John Lews in Sheffield City Centre is set to close. Vox pop - pictured is Janet Bullock. Picture: Chris Etchells

Miriam Smart said: “In my first week when I arrived in Sheffield, I had quite a few people coming up to me and asking do you know where John Lewis is; it’s like they came for John Lewis, which I was surprised about. So I think it’s going to have an impact in that way for tourists.

"Also, it’s going to make the city look a bit dead if there’s a massive building like this left empty."

Janet Bullock said: “We’ve not got much left in Sheffield, apart from Atkinsons; we’ve lost Debenham’s, and we’ve lost quite a few other shops.”

“We can’t all shop online, I’ve got relatives that are older than me and haven’t even got a computer, so how do they shop. I know that a lot of our older generation shop here.

"It’ll be a sad day if that goes, they’re destroying the city centre, they really are.

She added: "You might as well shut Sheffield down because apart from the Moor where a lot of shops have moved, that’s it. All Haymarket has gone; they made a mess down there the council."

John Lews in Sheffield City Centre is set to close. Vox pop - pictured is Michael Young. Picture: Chris Etchells

Michael Young said: “I didn’t know it was shutting; I thought it was going to open up again and see how it goes from there, but it’s just how it is at this moment in time.

“It’s like two steps forward and one step back, and then modern development here, but there’s one that shuts and one that opens, then again for different reasons. It’s sad really.”

Melanie Jayne King said on Facebook: “Oh no, how sad....loved going there and always promoted their warranties and the never knowingly undersold policy. I think that will be next to go. Wonder what will fill all these holes in town and Meadowhall. We just don't have any shops left to fill these gaps.”

Steve Hunter said: “And there was I planning a visit to Cole Bros/ John/Lewis when it opened again to buy a new laptop. I wanted to see the item before spending quite a few hundreds of pounds. How many more like me are there. But in common with others, it really is yet another nail in the coffin of daytime Sheffield. Hopefully, the City Hall and our theatres will remain along with the many restaurants we have become used to; if not, Private Fraser's immortal words come to mind, "we're doomed".”

Hayley Jackson said: “It’s going to decimate Sheffield city centre, not to mention the job losses. Truly terrible day for Sheffield.”

Rebecca Lili Roper said: “It’s really upset me this news. I absolutely loved going into that one at Barkers pool. So many memories too.”

Sheffield is one of eight John Lewis shops proposed for closure, leaving 1,465 jobs under threat.

A final decision will be made after a consultation period with staff, set to end in June.

Home delivery from John Lewis will still be available to customers in Sheffield.

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a digital subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.