The grand old shop that ran out of neighbours

Simon Bower of Pollards  Charles Street.
Simon Bower of Pollards Charles Street.

A SHEFFIELD retail tradition ground to a halt this week with the closure of Pollards Tea and Coffee in the city centre.

Managing director Simon Bower admitted defeat after struggling to survive in Charles Street against a background of empty neighbouring shops and fewer passers-by.

He blamed the blight caused by the long delayed £600m Sevenstone retail quarter.

“It has not been the recession that has done this – it’s the complete mismanagement of a massive regeneration project,” he said.

“Everything has closed around us. All the council has been doing is putting art in empty shop fronts, which helps nobody. And Hammerson are investing anywhere but Sheffield.

“Footfall has diminished and there is nobody walking past the shop. We are operating in gross isolation.”

But the council, which continues to push the Sevenstone project with London-based developers Hammerson, insisted Pollards had fallen victim to the recession.

One of the city’s longest-serving shops, the company was started in 1879 by Mr Pollard’s great, great grandfather Joseph Pollard, who used to roast his own coffee at his grocer’s shop.

It was so successful that the grocery business was overtaken by the coffee roasting.

Once an institution on Glossop Road, it has been based in recent years on a part of Charles Street that has been at the centre of the proposed Sevenstone development.

Conceived at the height of the economic boom, Sevenstone has been on hold since the start of 2009 and, while many retailers on his doorstep have moved out, Mr Bower has tried to carry on.

Now he says he can no longer operate in isolation. Since 2008 his turnover has dropped 45% and he claims footfall on Charles Street has fallen from 700 a day to around 70.

He said: “If Hammerson had gone through with their plans in 2008 or 2009, they would have had to pay to relocate us.

“We would have been able to relocate to an area that wasn’t derelict. But now it’s too late.

“I have been supporting the business personally over the last two years but I just can’t do that any more.”

Eighteen workers are losing their jobs, some of who have been working on Charles Street for 26 years, but five are being retained at the separate Pollards coffee wholesale business, which operates in Tinsley.

Council’s cabinet member for business Coun Ian Auckland said: “Whilst I’m sorry to see Pollards close, as a council we are doing all we can to bring Sevenstone forward as well as maintaining footfall around the area.

“This is a difficult time for business all round and especially given the increased competition in this sector over recent years.

“It may be bold to say, but I’d argue that Pollards has been a victim of the current economic climate, not the council.”

The council and Hammerson say Sevenstone is very much alive, although it is now thought to be taking a different shape to reflect the economic climate.

Initially, a new and bigger John Lewis store was planned on the site of the former Wellington Street fire station.

Now the emphasis is switching to redeveloping the existing store.

Talks are being held with the Government over some of the financial implications and one of the main aims is to ensure a compulsory purchase order programme is completed by the summer.