Myths of shopping in the city centre

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I AM amazed by the foolishness of some of your recent correspondents on the subjects of historical buildings and Sheffield’s retail offering.

Someone talked about the city’s founding fathers turning in their graves at the thought of what is happening to Sheffield?

Who are these founding fathers supposed to be – some omniscient beings who built Sheffield from scratch; planning its layout and furnishing it with outstanding buildings?

In fact, they never existed and neither did the Sheffield that they were supposed to have created.

Like most places, Sheffield developed in a haphazard way, largely at the hands of private developers and benefactors. By the law of averages, some buildings had to be good.

It is as wrong to credit some imaginary panel of worthies with Sheffield’s better buildings as it is to expect the council to step in when these have been abandoned by their former owners.

It is also important that we do not alienate the likes of Scottish Widows with their plans to develop the Moor – why should they be expected to invest people’s pensions unless there is a good chance that they will see a decent return on their money?

Many of your readers have said how they would be willing to shop in the city centre if there were only free parking.

How come that, in my younger days (long before every household had a car) Sheffield supported several department stores – Cole Brothers; Cockayne’s; Walsh’s; Roberts Brothers and Atkinsons, as well as the two Co-Ops at Castle House and the Arcade?. There were also two large Woolworths, two BHS and two M&Ss.

Of the department stores, only Cole Brothers (John Lewis) and Atkinsons remain. The rest were not all victims of Meadowhall and its free parking, but failed because they were unable to compete with new types of retailer, such as catalogue shops.

The ending of retail price maintenance in 1964 also played a major part, paving the way for the supermarket revolution. Now the competition is from on-line retailers.

Apart from John Lewis, the only successes of recent years have been the discounters, in particular the shops selling everything for a pound (or less).

If price is the main consideration for Sheffield shoppers, the likes of Selfridges and Harvey Nichols are not going to open stores in the city centre.

Paul Kenny S3