A ‘RETAIL emporium’ with a difference is due to be set up in Chapel Walk in Sheffield city centre – offering a base for more than 25 fledgling local businesses, writes Peter Kay.
Young entrepreneurs will be invited to take anything from a single shelf to a large standalone unit in the former Oasis fashion store to sell their goods.
The council is using £100,000 of Government money, earmarked through the Mary Portas initiative to promote the revival of high streets, to give young people a start on the retail ladder and hopefully help restore the fortunes of Chapel Walk.
The project will also employ four retail apprentices who will work in the shop and who are available to work in existing premises on the pedestrian route between Fargate and Norfolk Street.
The funds from the Government’s Department for Communities and Local Government are designed to revitalise empty properties on the high street. Sheffield is using them to try to boost retail growth through training, development and start-up incentives on Chapel Walk.
Cabinet member Coun Leigh Bramall said: “£100,000 sounds like a lot of money but it is a drop in the ocean for what is really needed to boost any city’s retail offer. We know that we can use this for maximum impact on Chapel Walk.
“We want to make Chapel Walk a vibrant and welcoming street again and one that provides a strong retail offer and boosts footfall.”
Over two floors, the ‘retail emporium’ in the old Oasis store will help potential retailers, some of whom are currently designing and selling from home, progress their ideas through to a standalone business. Units will be flexible and low cost.
“Although we only have the funding for one year we wanted to do something that will help local businesses grow and flourish – something that lasts for years to come helping boost the city’s economy and add valuable jobs for local people,” said Coun Bramall.
Chapel Walk, once buzzing at the heart of the city centre, is seen as an “incubation zone” for local people wanting to start a retail business. Training will be provided, along with the four apprentices to work with and assist the retailers.
Learning and development support will be provided through The Source Retail Training Academy and Creative Sheffield will offer business support to the independent retailers through the Sheffield Enterprise Programme.
The council says it plans to work with landlords to find incentives to attract new shops, to launch a marketing campaign and to spruce up the area.
It wants to see the fledgling shops grow into high street operators, giving them “every opportunity to succeed”. The authority, which hopes to see the project continue after the funding runs out, will be working with Victoria Hall Methodist Church, which owns the former Oasis unit.
Coun Bramall added: “As a council we’re doing everything we can to attract people to the city’s retailers and also to open up new opportunities. The new Moor market development, for example, is now on site and will be open by the end of next year, but we want to build on this momentum to attract more retailers and help the city centre flourish.
“Just like every city and town centre, Sheffield has seen some major national retailers close business. However, we are working hard to get spaces relet and to keep the city centre animated and attract visitors.”
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