"Why the closure of John Lewis is "ground zero for Sheffield"

Some say the best thing to happen to Manchester was the city centre bombing of 1996. Fortunately, there were no fatalities, but it was their city’s ground zero, writes Telegraph reader Shelley Cockayne.

Wednesday, 7th April 2021, 10:24 am
John Lews in Sheffield City Centre is set to close. Picture: Chris Etchells

Two weeks ago, for many, Sheffield felt it had hit its own ground zero. Not physically, but metaphorically. We lost John Lewis’s, or as most of us call it – Cole Brothers.

Don’t misunderstand me, I am truly upset for the ‘partners’ of the “never knowingly undersold” store. It must be devastating to have been let down by JLP after all their years of service and to have got so close to the end of the terrible Covid year that retail has had.

However, I’m not upset that the store itself won’t reopen. It’s only useful because there aren’t enough public toilets and for a car park I could actually find the entrance to.

To me, it has represented the demise of the city centre and a council ‘enthral’ to them. Our ‘flagship store’, my a***. It’s an ugly 1963 building, of its time, but not ours. It has stood as a keystone between The Moor and Fargate, and JLP knew it was pivotal, playing this card with aplomb.

When Meadowhall opened in 1990, we all loved it. Little did we know how much of an impact it would have on our city centre (way before online shopping). But our city centre stores didn’t love it. None more-so than JLP, who didn’t take up a unit there.

I fervently believe JLP had a hand in IKEA not pursuing their 2001 application for a store off the Parkway for fear of further losing trade. Meanwhile the city of Meadowhall continues to rise.

Finally, the Heart of the City campaign. A regeneration project that cleared out many small businesses and hung its hat on JLP’s continued involvement. The Sevenstone development revolved around it until they were pulled – wasn’t JLP supposed to take up a place in what has been developed since?

Now it’s our ground zero and, like Manchester, we could look at this as an opportunity. Sometimes we need to clear dead wood for new shoots. It’s time to do something radical, to be proud of.