Bouncing Back

The Sheffield Star reported that the city is ‘bouncing back’ following the lockdown period, citing a surge in demand from independent shops and restaurants.

The start of a new retail age following the pandemic?

I do hope so.

As someone who has (inadvertently) worked directly, and indirectly, in retail over the past 30 years (I had a Saturday job at 13…) I can confidently say that the industry has seen no less than seismic shifts over the past few decades. Retail is a constantly evolving arena – it has to be, to reflect new trends; world change (don’t we know it of late…) and the ever moving expectations from (the all so promiscuous) customers.

It has been no huge surprise therefore to see that many established high street brands are struggling, folding or re-emerging as a result of the pandemic. Indeed, recent news that John Lewis will be closing their Cole Brothers store in Sheffield was met by public outcry among us sentimental Sheffield set. Like many of the homages that I read after the announcement, I too was taken to the department store ‘mecca’ to select my Birthday presents and my Christmas dresses.

Cole Brothers gave me my first Barbie doll, my first camera… and my first bra. My sister and I would spend hours (hours) in the electrical department while Dad sorted a new TV, video, camcorder. It was Cole Brothers that I went to with my Nana on Saturday afternoons on the number 83 bus (she always wore a hat) for a cup of tea and a cream bun. The place holds a lot of memories, but that era has gone. Retail doesn’t sleep. And there’s no place for nostalgia. Now is an opportunity for the city to grab with both hands to reflect a new time, taking our high streets and our city back to the vibrant place where people want to live and work.

The lockdown has taught us many things: what can’t be done so well, but what can; what we have missed, but what we can now do better.  And out of adversity there is always opportunity.

MK client Commercial Property Partners (CPP) has reported a rise in office space in the city centre during quarter one of this year, as businesses return, ready to reinvest and reach growth ambitions. How heartening. We are indeed bouncing back.

Innovation must play king today, with many start-ups and ideas born out of lockdown, aware of the new needs, the new opportunities, the new era. It is time for them to take centre stage.

So, so-long old and trusted friends – we will miss you but we will build on you. And hello, and here’s to the future of our city, and many others, meeting the needs of tomorrow. Boing, boing…