THE former Sheffield Co-op flagship Castle House department store and head office in Angel Street has been put up for sale as new owners, the Co-operative Group, focuses on its core retailing markets.
The Group, which announced its intention to exit the department store sector in 2005, also plans to close the non-food elements of two other former Sheffield Society outlets in Middlewood Road, Hillsborough, and Drake House on the Waterthorpe Retail Park.
Around 130 full and part-time staff will be affected by the closure plans, but the Group hope to offer a number of alternative jobs in the area.
The old Sheffield Co-op merged with United Co-ops in January last year just as the merger talks involving United and the Group were gathering momentum.
A spokesman for the Co-operative Group told the News the decision had been taken with regret, but was in line with its business strategy of focusing on its core markets. He said: “The Group owns the Castle House and Middlewood Road buildings, and our property division is in the process of looking at potential buyers or lessees. Our intention is to continue to operate the food store, travel branch and pharmacy at Castle House for the foreseeable future, possibly by leasing space back from the new owners.
“At Middlewood Road we will continue to have a food store within the vicinity, although whether or not this will operate out of the existing building is yet to be decided. The Drake House property is leased and contains only a non-food outlet. As a result we will no longer have a presence in the building when we close the department store.”
The three department stores are the only such outlets currently operated by the Group.
Closure dates for the three sites have not been confirmed, but they are expected to cease trading in the next few months. In addition, the Group’s warehouse and delivery operation on Old Lane in Halfway will be closed, but will remain in operation until all customer orders have been fulfilled.
The Group will be discussing the impact of the closure decision with staff, trade unions and employee representatives in the coming weeks.
Added the spokesman: “We simply do not have the critical mass required in today’s competitive department store sector to justify the required further investment in these stores.”
The Group’s Castle House decision in particular has disappointed civic leaders who have asked the society to reconsider their plans. Nigel Tomlinson, Chief Executive of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, commented: “It’s sad news. It would have been nice if a business like this could have been saved, but I don’t think the Co-op would have taken their decision lightly.”