Plucky indie Carl Dunne, owner of Cards & Gifts in Sheffield’s Chapel Walk has become something of a media star as a leading voice in a continued battle to have the scaffolding removed that has severely blighted takings from his and his neighbours’ stores since it was erected 21 months ago.
It was Carl’s pleading for help at a Sheffield council meeting which caught the attention of not only the respected Sheffield Telegraph newspaper, but also the BBC which has recently covered the issue on TV.
Carl had received a promise that the scaffolding was finally to be removed this month, but learning that the developers have now asked for an extension until November, which would negatively affect Christmas trade, the independent retailer has gone into overdrive.
Galvanising support from fellow traders, shoppers and local councillors, Carl delivered a petition to Sheffield Council to prevent the developer from being granted an extension to its licence for the scaffolding that has effectively been “hiding” the shopping precinct where the Cards & Gifts shop is located.
Explaining his outrage to PG Buzz, Carl said: “After two years the developer has only just begun to start works to the exterior – that’s two years of scaffolding being up that hasn’t been used. We shouldn’t have to suffer for their lack of planning.”
Carl has made the campaign a main focus, “not just for my business but for the other traders who are now relying on me to lead the charge and make it clear to the council that this is a tipping point and that they need to, for once, support the little guy and show that they genuinely do support business especially the small independent.”
It was back in September 2017 when construction work started on the scaffolding to convert the offices above the nearby Paperchase store into student accommodation and apartments.
Since then there’s been nothing but scaffolding and zero works actually conducted on the site which has blighted the shopping environment and severely dampened takings over the last 21 months.
“Every single retailer, which are predominantly independent, are trading at least a 35% loss weekly, monthly and yearly on their takings,” Carl told the Sheffield Telegraph. “We have no help from the council with business rates. We just don’t want the council to extend this licence. Please help us before we shut our doors.”
Sheffield Councillor Mazher Iqbal, cabinet member for business and investment, has agreed with Carl that it is “unacceptable” the work had gone on for so long and has asked Sheffield BID to look at a compensation claim.
Carl is not holding his breath. “It seems here are more empty promises from the council. Over a year they’ve been promising compensation and action. Another year passes and still nothing. Let’s see what nothing comes from this now…”
Cards & Gifts in Sheffield is in the finals of The Retas in the Best Greeting Card Retailer Newcomer or New Branch – North.
Top: Carl Dunne outside his Cards and Gifts store in Sheffield.