Traders prepare for ‘Independents’ Day’

Ecclesall Road Fashion team picture (from left to right): Lisa from "Sister", Helen from "Squirts", Lauren from "Studio 557" and Francesca from "Choola". Henry and Orla from "House of W" and Becky from "Kuji"
Ecclesall Road Fashion team picture (from left to right): Lisa from "Sister", Helen from "Squirts", Lauren from "Studio 557" and Francesca from "Choola". Henry and Orla from "House of W" and Becky from "Kuji"

INDEPENDENT businesses in the Ecclesall Road area are staging a fashion show next month in the face of growing competition from the big chain stores.

At the same time, money will be raised for local charities the Cavendish Centre and Cash 4 Kids - and one shop owner has a personal reason for wanting to help the Cavendish Centre, which works with cancer patients and their relatives.

Helen Connelly, who runs Squirtz children’s designerwear shop and came up with the idea of the show, has been receiving counselling for two years at the Broomhall-based charity.

“I wanted to organise a really fun and positive event to remind people that S11 continues to provide a vibrant, unique shopping experience,” she said. “I also wanted to do something to raise money for the Cavendish Centre and for Cash 4 Kids, and this event should do both.

“I was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer 11 years ago, when I had my adrenal gland and a large malignant tumour removed. In 2009 I felt like my world came crashing down when I suffered a re occurrence, which involved the removal of another tumour and my spleen.

“The people at the Cavendish centre were so supportive and helped me through the emotional trauma I suffered with counselling and relaxation sessions which helped me to regain some control over my feelings and emotions.”

Helen, aged 35, required surgery at the Northern General cardio thoracic unit last March another tumour was found in her lung.

She said: “I feel incredibly fortunate to live in Sheffield where I have received the very best of medical care and support throughout my cancer journey and this event is my way of giving something back.”

The fashion show will be at Studio 557 - the former Walnut Club bar - in Ecclesall Road on Thursday, September 15, which is being labelled “Independents’ Day”.

A champagne reception will be followed by catwalk presentations featuring high-end women’s fashion and jewellery from Sister, Ivory, Charlie and Kuji and Squirtz, hair demonstrations by House of W and a class in flower arranging from Flora.

The businesses say Ecclesall Road is one of the most popular boutique shopping areas in Sheffield, but four big supermarket names have now moved in, and a fifth is on the way next year. Every £1 spent with local suppliers is worth £1.76 to the local economy in comparison with 36p spent in chain stores, they add.

Yet rising rents rates and restricted parking can make life difficult for the small outlets.

In general, the shop owners are pointing to Sheffield’s reputation for independent businesses - from Forgemasters to Hendersons Relish and Pollards - and to its quirky little shops across the city

“I think trade is difficult for everybody at the moment,” said Helen. “That’s why we are looking to remind people that these independent businesses are still here and they have a lot of great products and can offer great service, which you don’t always get with chain stores.”

Helen, aged 35, who lives with husband Michael in Ranmoor, opened Squirtz in Twentywell Lane, Bradway, eight years ago before moving to Ecclesall Road a couple of year later. She saw a gap in the market after working in insurance from the age of 17.

She was clear of cancer for nine years before being devastated by its return. Over the past 11 years, she has also had two operations at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, one at the Northern General and she has received radiotherapy at Weston Park Hospital.

The health care has been “amazing”, she said, and so have her customers. “They have been fantastic. I have had lots of cards and flowers.”

lTickets for the night cost £12 and are available from Squirts (812 Ecclesall Road), Choola (778-780 Ecclesall Road), Sister (409 Ecclesall Road) and Ivory (374 Sharrowvale Road). Event co-ordinator Laura McClure can be contacted on 2676766.