Made in Sheffield shop

Another idea for empty retail spaces in town

Many people are rightly proud of what a creative city Sheffield is. It is certainly home to plenty of creative people: 7.2% of the workforce is employed in the creative and digital industries* and an uncited claim on Wikipedia says that outside of London, Sheffield has the largest population of amateur, working and professional visual artists in the UK.

Could we do more help promote our creative excellence? The bigger manufacturers pay to use the Made in Sheffield mark to help sell and authenticate their products, but this is less useful for smaller artists trying to sell their wares.

As the recession has hit, shops have gone bust and retail units in towns up and down the country have been left empty. Sheffield city centre hasn’t escaped this, with the delay of Sevenstone resulting in many of our retail spaces being caught in a black hole between compulsory purchase orders and postponed building work.

We’ve already seen some other ideas for ways to make use of these spaces in Sheffield and some bars and shops are even reopening in the empty units.

At least three other cities have now come up with another use for them which is helping local artists and creative people. In the last few months, ‘Made in…’ or ‘Created in…’ shops have opened in Newcastle and Birmingham. It looks like Nottingham is also home to a similar type of  shop.

The concept is simple, although it has varied from city to city. Broadly, they are pop-up shops occupying empty retail units that showcase and sell locally-made products. They can also incorporate meeting places, small workshop spaces and exhibition areas. A group of volunteers run the shops, sometimes with a committee or main organiser heading things up.

Could this work in Sheffield? We already have a pool of creative artists, plenty of empty units in town and and regular craft fairs run by the Sheffield craft mafia.

Running the shops is hard work, as the Created in Birmingham people discovered, so it isn’t something to take on lightly. And I think some thought would need to be given as to how such a project would work alongside existing rent-paying outlets like the Famous Sheffield Shop and Sheffield Scene, and also existing art-selling galleries.

On the whole, it sounds like these pop-up shops have been very well received. After a successful three-month trial, the Birmingham shop closed due to their prestigious unit in the Bullring shopping centre being let to paying tenants, but it is expected to return for Christmas.

Has this idea had been considered for Sheffield? If not, is anyone interested in seeing whether there is an appetite to get a Made in Sheffield shop up and running in time for the Christmas shopping season?

*I’ve no idea how an occupation is classed as creative or otherwise

New Made in Newcastle shop front by championmonkeyface

New Made in Newcastle shop front by championmonkeyface, used with permission

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  1. Erica

     /  11 August, 2010

    I think it’s a great idea – would take some serious organising tho. Have to set up a central team to co-ordinate it, and find a good way to select who gets to show/sell what in the shop and when. There are loads of great crafters/artists/musicians who would probably jump at the chance to get involved.

    Perhaps it could be linked in with the Sheffield Swop Shop project that is already going on at Sunwin House? @ianibbo and @helenmilner are taking the lead on that…

  2. nickj

     /  11 August, 2010

    We’ve already got 2 commercial ones…

  3. It would have to offer something different to the commercial outlets already in the city, it would be unacceptable to take their trade.

    Perhaps it should be run with/supporting a local craft charity like Art Space or the Museums trust.

    Perhaps a service to help local crafts people into commercial outlets would be better (with support from someome like the craft council)

  4. Having just looked at the site, the price to use the mark for two years is just £100 – not a large fee. Or do they exclude smaller businesses in other ways?

  5. Hi!

    I worked in the Created in Birmingham Shop (I contributed to the blog occasionally) and everyone loved it.

    Funnily enough I’ve just moved to Newcastle and noticed their ‘Made in Newcastle’ store but haven’t had a chance to pop in.

    I would heartily reccomend applying for council funding and having a go. Once you find customers, you quickly gain regulars. We grew steadily and began to build a proper community (outside of the healthy online one we already had.)

    It is hard work for whoever is managing it though! That’s why I’d reccomend funding first – so you can pay the manager and regular staff.

    Good luck – and I’m sure us CiB-ers will be on hand to give help/advice if you’d like it.

  6. Sheffield blog

     /  16 August, 2010

    Cheers Frankie, and thanks for your offer of help.

    One question – in Birmingham, were there existing similar commercial outlets also selling locally-made products? I wasn’t sure whether this might affect whether or not the council could help fund a volunteer-led shop, given than there would be some overlap in what was being sold by commercial, rent-paying competitiors.

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