“The Moor will be the centre of Sheffield moving forward,” says Atkinsons director following John Lewis closure
Sheffield’s proudly independent department store Atkinsons is almost the last one standing - but its managing director says the John Lewis closure will not leave the city ‘devastated’.
Following the news that John Lewis would close its Barker’s Pool store, historic Atkinsons on The Moor, which was established in 1872, is still serving the city centre. Debenhams, on the same shopping street, is also to close.
But Atkinsons’ family member Nicholas Atkinson believes The Moor could now lead the way in attracting custom to the city centre post-Covid.
Nicholas Atkinson, managing director of the store, said: “I think it is a very sad day. My great grandfather John, before he opened his store in 1872, worked for Cole Brothers, so there is some connection there.
"I think a lot of this has been caused by the devastating affect on retail of the pandemic, and the fact that over the last 12 months we have all been closed for nearly seven months and, commercially, it is just unviable to run businesses like that.
"So it is extremely difficult for everybody and of course John Lewis having so many stores the impact is just multiplied so many times.”
Despite the closures, Mr Atkinson says that plenty of people will visit the city centre.
One reason he gives for this is the heavy investment in The Moor and the Heart of the City project – as well as more demand for social and entertainment facilities, seen with complexes such as The Light.
“It will be a split, we might get some rub-off and that will be great because we have been there a long time. But having said that, if you want to go to a John Lewis you are going to have to go to Leeds, and there won’t be that many people doing that”, he said.
"I think The Moor has had this huge investment over the last few years, £130 million, and is the one place that has got some decent shops and okay, Debenhams is not going to be there, but the owner has got great plans for that building and I think The Moor will be the centre of Sheffield moving forward.
“There will be people who won’t come into Sheffield because there is not a John Lewis, and some people still will. It is not going to leave the centre of Sheffield devastated.
“But, bearing in mind historically Sheffield had eight department stores, and currently have one, there is a huge change, but there is also a big social change and with a mixture of entertainment, restaurants, shops, cafes that there is in the moor that will be the area that will suffer the least.”
The original Atkinsons store was razed to the ground during the Sheffield Blitz.