Losing Sheffield's John Lewis is more than a shop shutting - it ends a legacy, and changes the future

We may have reached the one year anniversary of lockdown this week, but it is not over yet.

Wednesday, 24th March 2021, 3:51 pm
Updated Wednesday, 24th March 2021, 3:57 pm
John Lewis in Barker's Pool, Sheffield.

That is abundantly clear both from the data which shows Covid-19 infection rates are inching back up, and as the ripple effect of shutting down our nation continues to deliver more blows. This week, the hammer fell on Sheffield’s John Lewis store, which is now set to close, ending a city legacy that dates back more than a century, to when Cole Brothers first opened their store on Fargate.

In Sheffield, this is not just a shop shutting as it might be in any other city. It is the end of a chapter of history. And more than that, it changes the future, too. Readers with long memories will know that John Lewis has always been at the centre of plans for regenerating the city centre. Indeed, Sheffield Council paid £3m for a new lease for the site just last year.

The council has come out fighting, saying it still has plans for a city centre that will ‘compete on a global stage.’

It is true that despite the pandemic, there are a lot of developments in progress or planned for the city centre. They sound incredibly exciting – especially the new food destination on Cambridge Street (see page 5)

But will it be enough without what was once known as Sheffield’s only premier shopping destination?

Will these developments still go ahead without an anchor store as the big draw? Will people who have now gone a year without shopping in the city centre go back once non essential retail opens, or will they order online? What will fill that huge site in Barker’s Pool?

Love or loathe big businesses like John Lewis, the store brought many people into the city centre, who then went on to spend more money in cafes, restaurants, and indie shops. Time will tell, but I really hope the council are right on this one.