WH Smith in Sheffield city centre to close and relocate to make way for repairs
The Sheffield city centre branch of WH Smith -Â covered with scaffolding for 18 months because of a structural problem -Â is to close and relocate while extensive repairs are carried out.
The shop, on Fargate, is to shut next Tuesday, January 30, and will reopen 'later in the year', according to notices displayed outside and inside the premises.
Sheffield Council is finalising a deal whereby the branch moves into an empty unit on Pinstone Street - last occupied by the Co-op and Budgens - without having to close completely.
Several weeks ago the council was told the Fargate premises needed repairs on the third floor, including a new roof, trusses, rafters, and the taking down and rebuilding of the front and back walls. Replacement flat roof finishes were also to be provided on the second floor.
Mazher Iqbal, the authority's cabinet member for business and investment, said: “The council is working with WH Smith and its representatives to secure alternative space in the city centre. Negotiations are ongoing but we are hopeful of providing an alternative close to the existing store which will be good for customers and staff alike.”
Property agent Paul Lancaster acted for the council on the move. He said terms had been agreed, solicitors were instructed and WH Smith wanted to complete.
The stationer aims to open on Pinstone Street on January 31, the day after the other branch closes. The substitute unit has been offered on a heavily discounted lease.
It is understood the facade is falling away on the Fargate building and WH Smith is liable for the costs, even though it is not the owner, Mr Lancaster said. They will return after the completion of the work and it will almost certainly mean a partial re-fit of the store.
He said: "They will be going back in and securing their position on Fargate and making an investment on the street."
When asked about the impact of an empty store on Sheffield's main shopping street, Mr Lancaster said: "City centres across the country have been suffering a drop in footfall. Fargate has held up well, its void rate has been low."
The structural issues first emerged in 2016. The branch closed for maintenance in September of that year, the scaffolding was extended a month later and the shop then reopened.
The notices say: "While we undertake improvement work to your WH Smith we will be closing this store on Tuesday, January 30. We will reopen later in the year but in the meantime your nearest stores are at Meadowhall or Crystal Peaks. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause."
Elsewhere, on the corner of Fargate opposite the Town Hall, the Yorkshire Bank is also surrounded by scaffolding. The front of Paperchase, where the upper floors are being turned into flats, is covered too along with much of Chapel Walk. Before Christmas, traders in Sheffield city centre complained the large amount of scaffolding was putting off customers and affecting trade.
WH Smith has been approached for comment. A clearance sale - the 'biggest ever', posters say - is happening at the store in the run-up to the closure.