Sheffield’s independent businesses under pressure amid Coronavirus fears

Independent business owners in Sheffield are already feeling the effects of public concern about COVID-19 and say they aren’t sure what the future holds.

Division Street is usually one of the more bustling areas of the city but this morning it was eerily quiet, with multiple business opting to close following a flat weekend.

Dean McBride has opened his shop, Sandwich Division, but said: “It’s been really quiet, it’s rubbish really.

“Our customers are the people that work in the offices and they’re not in, it is really concerning.

“If everyone works from home, who is going to support the businesses in Sheffield city centre?”

Some businesses on Division Street have taken the decision to close altogether

Rhy Davies, owner of the Copper Pot, said: “We’ve already experienced a bit of decrease in business of about 25 – 30%.

“We’re trying to make preparations by speaking to the banks and the council to arrange some sort of relief.

“I’m not so much worried about the virus itself – we’ve got measures in place for our customers and staff, it’s the effect that people self-isolating will have on the business.”

The Copper Pot on Division Street is one of many businesses worried about the impact of reduced footfall

Simon Taylor, owner of Cryptology Escape Rooms, said: “I think small businesses have less room for manoeuvre than large companies in terms of capital and person-power, it’s tougher for small businesses.

“I don’t think we’re at the point where we close yet but it is something that concerns the industry, but there are ways and means of us getting past this.

“Based on the budget brought out recently, there are provisions there, but it depends on how easy it is to get to these provisions and what changes in the meantime.”

Mr McBride added how a lack of clarity from the government hadn’t helped. He said: “We’re just not sure how the government is going to help us, there are talks of a relief fund but we don’t know what it is or how it will be distributed.”