Sheffield: State of the Independent

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By Grace Casson

Our current financial situation has been seen to put a strain on everyone over the years, but that isn’t going to stop Sheffield’s independents quit without a fight.

The word Sheffield and independent go hand in hand together. Despite some restaurants having closed, such as Fitzwilliam and West in West one Space, and Platillos in Leopold Square over the last few months, Sheffield independents are remaining strong.

It’s often the fact that we walk through streets of independents all the time, never looking in, never paying attention. It’s the big queues at Nandos that we notice, and in fact join. Some people enjoy sourcing out independents, and others just need a little push. Sheffield embraces that, with many websites now aimed solely at independents in the city.

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Danny Wootton, co-founder of vinyl store Reset Records on Sidney Street believes: “It just seems to be a city full of very supportive people. When local folk start up something, everyone seems to want to get behind it. We found this out ourselves when setting up Reset.” Recently opening the store, Danny talks about the overwhelming experience it was. “We’ve had a ton of people wanting to help us out right from having the idea, to being open. In all honesty, without the support from our friends and family we would have had a much harder time in seeing it through.”

This idea of community in the world of the independents is what keeps Sheffield’s going, living in a small city.

Carl Simmonite, of Simmonite butchers on Division Street said: “Personally I think the decline of butchers has halted, with the way in which people shop these days there is an emphasis on shopping locally and supporting independent businesses, which we think is wonderful.” He thinks people are realising how expensive supermarkets and chains are in all types of industry, in fact revealing that he believes they sell produce as well as products lower in quality, and that is what the public are starting to notice.

Syd and Mallory’s Emporium on Devonshire Street is a boutique clothing store. One half of the business Kirsteen Hardie, acknowledges the tough times. She said: “Independents in Sheffield have always been around. There’s been a slow decline since the 90’s due to high rents and people wanting choice and low prices. Places like Primark are often hard to compete with.”

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With working harder than ever, producing new designs daily, as well as travelling to design shows involved with ASOS Marketplace; a place for independents, they are keeping well within the competition. She said: “We have always tried to offer something a bit different at Syd & Mallory’s, and sell a lot of stuff online on ASOS Marketplace and our website. We are still doing wholesale too. Combining all these things, we are getting there.”

Independent chocolate shop Cocoa Wonderland, located on Ecclesall Road is a long standing independent in Sheffield. Best friends Kate and Anne took over the business fresh out of university. Kate said: “We are honoured to be a ‘Sheffield Independent’. To be addressed with such a label instantly says to expect something different and unique. There is a risk of cities losing their individuality and diversity due to the ‘clone high street’, and it’s independents like us who are keeping our town different from the rest.”

Sourcing out the independents has never been easier. Using social media to their advantage, you can stumble across a fair few. Not being a chain, their accounts are a lot more liberal, and engage with their audience in a much better way than the bog-standard automated response you get from the likes of Pizza Express and Sainsburys.

Ditch the chains, and do your bit by supporting the independents. You’ll find a lot more out there.

Slideshow of SC’s favourite independents:

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