Telegraph Voices: Does Sheffield's city centre retail and leisure offering now compete with neighbouring cities?

Does Sheffield's city centre retail and leisure offering now compete with neighbouring cities? We ask those in the know.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 26th February 2018, 3:53 pm
Updated Monday, 26th February 2018, 3:55 pm
Clockwise from top left: Richard Wright, Moya O'Rourke, Paul Blomfield and Diane Jarvis.
Clockwise from top left: Richard Wright, Moya O'Rourke, Paul Blomfield and Diane Jarvis.


Whilst Leeds and Manchester may be perceived as leading the way when it comes to retail and leisure in the north, regeneration is taking place which will mark Sheffield as an exciting and dynamic location in the years ahead.

Today, there is a sense of a stronger retail leisure mix as the city centre begins to transition into a genuine mixed-use destination that caters for those that visit, live and work here.

A multi-million-pound makeover is underway, as the city centre embraces this need for a mixed-use footprint that will achieve greater social, commercial and economic growth.

The city centre is already a viable destination with its own unique ethos and independent offer. It attracts high volumes of visitors to diverse events.

There is a thriving night-time economy. A more diverse retail offer caters for a wider range of budgets.

Home to the largest theatre complex outside of London, Sheffield has a great-range of museums, galleries, cinemas and sporting activities, not to mention a vibrant restaurant scene.

Aberdeen Asset Management has transformed The Moor into an increasingly vibrant destination whilst the multi-million-pound Heart of the City 2 project will deliver more retail, leisure and improved public spaces, balanced with provision for offices and city living.

This transformation is helping the city centre reposition itself strategically to better serve our communities and visitors, both day and night.

The establishment of Sheffield’s Business Improvement District (BID) has created a community of businesses, all working together to ensure the ongoing success of the city centre.

The BID plays a critical role in linking the retail and leisure offer through collaborative marketing activities such as Alive After Five, the Sheffield City Centre Gift Card, Restaurant Week, Fashion Week and a series of differentiated This is Sheffield visitor guides.

This partnership working – and a desire and willingness to work together – is imperative to the long-term prosperity of Sheffield city centre, as well as the regeneration activity that is underway.


Shopping in Sheffield has changed enormously since I was young - and not just because Redgates is no longer there.

Since Meadowhall opened in 1990, we have to look at retail across the city - and that includes areas like Sharrowvale and the Antiques Quarter around Abbeydale Road.

Our growing use of online shopping means things will change even more. Independent shops have a special attraction, as we’ve seen on Division Street and Devonshire Green.

The more established retail offer is moving forward with the developments on the Moor, and the new HSBC offices are providing a foundation for the New Retail Quarter.

A wider leisure offer is increasingly important to successful city centres, and here Sheffield competes strongly with all our neighbours.

The Crucible, with the Studio and the Lyceum are widely recognised as among the very best regional theatres in the country – for both the quality and diversity of their programmes – and Theatre Deli provides a window on the rich creative talent in the city.

Cinemagoers have great options too. My first choice is always the Showroom, but Curzon and the Light are now adding to the offer.

We have some truly innovative museums and galleries, and it’s always worth catching up with their latest exhibitions. Festivals, from ‘Doc Fest’ to ‘Off the Shelf’, have won national acclaim – and are hugely popular.

Some great music venues, which have provided a platform to develop local talent over many years, make for a lively night-time economy alongside the huge range of restaurants and bars, backed by the growing number of micro-breweries.

The launch of the Business Improvement District a couple of years ago has provided new energy and focus, and is already improving the vibrancy of the city centre. It all means that, whatever the competition, Sheffield is a special place to live, study and work.


There is no question that Sheffield’s city centre can and does compete with neighbouring cities.

Arguably it does so with the retail and leisure it offers, but with Sheffield and its city centre, we know there is so much more to our city’s appeal than that.

Growing up in Greater Manchester, I’ve always been a bus ride away from a major contender, Manchester. If you listen to a lot of people from the wrong side of the Pennines, it’s the be-all and end-all of everything and anything.

However, for myself, I always felt it was missing something, and I found that in Sheffield.

Sheffield might not have Selfridges or designer label shops, but it offers different things. Sheffield is a creative hub with delightful independent businesses, shops and creative agencies around every street corner waiting for you to find.

The recent and ongoing regeneration on the Moor has effectively doubled the size of the city centre. Visiting The Light has become a weekly staple for my partner and I, watching a film – literally - laid back and going out for dinner. We’re offered high quality at a very affordable price.

Ultimately for me, Sheffield’s city centre has the charm and feel of a town but with the amenity access of a major city centre. Being out in Manchester at 8pm with a dead mobile phone caused me to panic, whereas in Sheffield I feel safe enough to ask a stranger for help.

Looking to the future, Sheffield is forever developing and growing. Who knows how much more effectively it will contend, with things such as the Sheffield City Centre Master Plan on the horizon? Most importantly, however, if Sheffield protects, develops and delivers its unique culture, heritage and attractions, it will always be a contender due to its charming personality.


If we are being honest we have to say that overall Sheffield's retail and leisure offer does not yet compare well enough with the offering of Leeds and Manchester in particular - and probably Nottingham.

That doesn't mean we don't have our strengths but basic things like footfall and expenditure would indicate we still have some distance to go.

That said we have a massive opportunity with the impending "Heart of the City" development and things like the HS2 station development which, if done correctly, can complement our strengths in theater and culture and make Sheffield a real destination of choice.

Of course the critical words here are "if done correctly"! What we must not do is try to compete in areas where the other cities are strong and established. The Heart of the City development gives us the opportunity to step past them and create something distinctive that reflects the history of enterprise and imagination we are all so proud of.

I will be very disappointed if we just build something that could be in any city in the UK. I want something that both makes a statement of what we aspire to be, and meets the needs of shoppers, retailers, restaurateurs, familys, cultural pilgrims etc 10, 20, 30 years from now. We need forward vision and to be prepared to take a bit of a risk to become the market leader.

In short,we do not want to be as good as our neighbours, we need to be better. Bigger is not always better. Volume is for vanity and profit is for sanity - ask any business person.