Primark deal marks shift in Sheffield centre focus

New look for The Moor
New look for The Moor

Clothing retailer Primark became the latest store to commit itself to the new-look Moor, announcing this week a deal to relocate across the city centre.

It is taking 45,000 sq ft over two floors as part of a retail and leisure complex, including a multi-screen cinema and restaurants, due to be built below Debenhams with a completion date of summer 2015.

The deal sees the prospect of a further shift in retail gravity - from the Castlegate area to the other side of the city centre. Already the markets are moving, and budget department store T.J.Hughes is switching from High Street to a new unit alongside.

Councillors see an opportunity for a new identity for Castlegate, based around the remains of Sheffield Castle and new leisure and commercial uses, shifting the emphasis from retail and effectively ending the shopping spine around Fitzalan Square.

But remaining traders are becoming increasingly concerned that they are being left on a limb, with declining numbers of passers-by.

The Primark announcement comes at a time when the future of a large chunk of the city centre remains uncertain amid the frustration over getting the Sevenstone retail quarter off the ground.

And it is in the wake of a survey indicating the city has slipped out of the top 50 places to shop in the UK, underlining the need for a more diverse range of shops.

Low-price fashion retailer Primark has signed to be part of the 200,000 sq ft retail and leisure scheme on the site being cleared next to the Debenhams store.

A spokesperson said: “Primark is delighted to have secured a store in The Moor and we look forward to welcoming our existing loyal customers from Sheffield and the surrounding area to the new store.”

The deal is another boost for Scottish Widows Investment Partnership Property Trust, which aims to restore The Moor as “one of the city’s major retailing locations”.

Co-manager Kerri Hunter said: “Securing Primark as part of this new leisure block in the middle of The Moor is a significant step forward.

“I’m delighted that, on the back of our investment to date, prime retailers share our confidence in The Moor as a primary retail location. With the completion of the retail units, which are part of the new markets building, and the public realm, the physical environment has significantly improved and our plans for the street continue apace.”

Ms Hunter said the leisure attractions “will add to the evening economy of the city centre.”

“We are currently in discussions with both cinema and restaurant groups, quite a few of which have resulted from unsolicited enquiries.”

Andy Criss, of Jackson Criss letting agents, said discussions were being held with other major fashion and leisure operators “seeking large, well configured retail and leisure space in a quality retail environment, as well as to a variety of quality local and regional independent retailers”.

Council cabinet member Leigh Bramall said the Primark deal was a reflection of “increasing confidence in the area”.

Meanwhile, the Sevenstone saga rumbles on.

The council expects a decision either way in the near future, which includes the option of teaming up with an alternative developer if a breakthrough is not achieved with Hammerson.