THE Argos store on The Moor is to close next month, prompting further fears over the future of one of the city centre’s main shopping areas.
With construction of the long-awaited markets hall yet to start, another empty unit will be added to those already on the precinct.
Developers say the closure of shops such as Argos – on January 20 – underlines the importance of the new indoor markets, along with new shops at Moorhead and the renovation of the upper section of the precinct.
Work is due to start by the summer, but after so many delays and missed deadlines, traders and shoppers are increasingly frustrated and sceptical that the turnaround will begin.
A spokesman for Argos said it had been decided that the company’s four other stores in Sheffield – in Angel Street in the city centre, Meadowhall, Kilner Way Retail Park at Wadsley Bridge and Crystal Peaks Retail Park – could “sufficiently service customers in the area, making a fifth surplus to requirements”.
He added: “Argos is exploring alternative working opportunities for the affected Sheffield Moor employees where possible.”
The closure is the latest in a series of blows to the precinct, which was once one of the most prosperous parts of the city centre.
Hopes of a revival have been raised by the revamping of the lower section of the precinct and the Government money that paid for it is linked to the construction of the markets hall.
The site, opposite Atkinsons department store, has been cleared, and Scottish Widows, the company with a long lease on much of The Moor, is committed to pressing ahead next year with the scheme that would relocate the markets from Castlegate.
Ranald Phillips, director at asset and development managers Centenary Ashcroft said the Argos decision was “indicative of the current challenging retail climate that is having an effect in all our towns and cities and a further indictment on the way The Moor has been allowed to deteriorate over the last decade.
“It means that the plans we have to radically upgrade The Moor’s environment are even more crucial to adding to the retail offer in Sheffield.”
Scottish Widows also have council permission for a £15m project to demolish and rebuild the Moorhead corner – the former McDonald’s block. Three shops with a giant video screen in the facade are planned, with work also due to start next year.
However, hopes for the future of The Moor are tempered by doubts engrained over many years.
Hat scarves and gloves outdoor stallholder William Glover, one of the Moor’s few remaining independent traders, said: “Trade is terrible. Footfall is non-existent and at an all-time low. And this is Christmas. There are empty shops everywhere.
“Part of the problem is parking. People go to Meadowhall and park for free. We traders would happily pay a pound or two more on our rents if free parking was introduced.”
Paul Tissington, of Smith and Tissington’s fish and poultry, is still waiting to move from Castle Market.
“Since the Sheaf Market closed there have been 12 different planning applications to move the market on to the Moor and not a one has come to anything. And the longer this goes on, the less likely it is to happen. Where is the money going to come from in this day and age?”