City Buzz: Why every hello really does matter
'Every hello is important when you're an independent store,' reveals Lisa Fox.
“Every greeting, every smile is someone who will hopefully have a lovely experience in your store and come back, and perhaps even recommend your store to someone else.”
And Lisa knows what she’s talking about. She’s the manager of Sanderson’s Boutique – nestled in Stocksbridge’s unique town centre shopping destination, Fox Valley. And six months since opening, business is booming.
“We’re doing so well, our feedback is terrific,” says Lisa.
And I’m not surprised. The beautiful store, elegant and calming, is also dripping with local charm. ‘Marjorie the elephant’ has made her escape from The Herd of Sheffield, and has taken up residence on the ground floor, near a wall of artwork created by city legend Pete McKee. The story of the centre’s opening weekend is told through a collage of photos on a large feature wall, which Lisa, informs me, local shoppers love to spot themselves on, and are often caught posing for selfies and Tweeting them out.
Arranged over two floors, the store houses a range of top brands, including Gant, Barbour, Phase 8, Joules and Ted Baker, alongside a wealth of local brands – Yorkshire Clobber, Harrogate Candle Company and Goo Design – and niche products not available anywhere else outside London. On the ground floor, the store has an in-house floristry, and a beauty lounge, both run by local women. The first floor features the stunning – and also independent – Blake’s Tearoom.
“We have a great mix,” confirms Lisa, who has lived in Stocksbridge for more than 20 years.
“People cry out for great local products and good customer service and that’s what we pride ourselves on here. We have people come to us from Manchester, Nottingham, Huddersfield, Holmfirth and beyond.”
Sandersons is the brainchild of former South Yorkshire journalist Deborah Holmes, who took on the store last year after an 18-year career break to raise her children.
“She had a big job to do, convincing all these big brands to come and put their products in this store that we were building on the site of a former steelworks,” laughs Lisa.
“But she rose to the challenge. Those were funny times – seeing the bigwigs from Ralph Lauren walking around in their hardhats as Deborah explained the vision to them – but it worked, and we have a fantastic range here now because of that.”
Visit Sandersons Boutique for details.
Fox Valley is a £50 million retail destination in Stocksbridge, north Sheffield which was officially opened by Joanna Lumley OBE last June.
Developed on a former steelworks site, the scheme has brought a new retail line-up to South Yorkshire and created hundreds of jobs in the area.
To market, to market’ - weekly crowd-pleaser at Fox Valley
Fox Valley hosts a market every Friday, with around 20 stalls of local produce – including locally sourced meats, fish, fruit and vegetables, speciality cheese and handmade gifts.
Amanda Holmes, communications director for Fox Valley developer Dransfield Properties said: “We have Andy, one of the nicest greengrocers you could ever wish to meet; we have Busy Fingers, a small independent wool shop; and Finkle Antiques, which has been trading in the area for the last 44 years.
“We have our Chef On A Bike, from his bakery in Deepcar, serving delicious treats such as pain d’olive et capre, and tarte de rhubarbe.
“We have a wonderful local butchers and fishmongers, a fantastic family-owned wine merchant and The Unusual Chutney Company, and so many more.”
Fox Valley’s Friday market is held every week from 9am to 3pm on the central walkway.
More than shopping...
There’s plenty of local flavour at Fox Valley – 25 per cent to be exact.
“One quarter of our retailers are independent,” confirms Amanda Holmes, communications director for Fox Valley developer Dransfield Properties.
“We have the wonderful Independent Quarter and a whole host of other independent stores, all offering something different and unique, which is what people really want these days. Of course we need the big stores, the names everybody recognises, but we also need the local stores that make a place feel different. The two feed off each other.
“At Fox Valley, we want to offer a great experience. We hold film screenings outside in the summer, with comfy bean bags and kids running round while the independent places bring out hot chocolate and brownies. We’re more than a shopping destination.”
“If somebody showed up at our store with some lovely jewellery they’d made, we’d definitely consider stocking it,” said Kim Tabor-Rose.
Local sisters Kim and Kathryn opened jewellery store Sorelle at Fox Valley last June and say it’s been a great year for them.
“We’ve tried hard to cater for every taste,” said Kim.
“So we offer the big names everybody knows, like Storm, alongside up-and-coming brands. We want to be a bit different, being local, so we stock the chunky outlandish stuff, alongside the delicate pretty things, with prices starting from £4.99 and going all the way up. This is a lovely environment for a store like ours.”
Taste of Thailand
Thai Lemongrass Supermarket is a new stall to come and explore in the Moor Market.
Run by Sim Dudek, it’s an Aladdin’s Cave of Thai treats selling fresh ingredients such as pea aubergine, red chillis and banana leaves plus a huge selection of Thai herbs and spices.
They also stock frozen, tinned and packaged goods including dried seaweed, pork balls and traditional Thai sweets.
You’ll also find some specialist cookware such as bamboo steamers. Lemongrass also supply some of the top Thai restaurants in Sheffield.