Chamber to get inside view of retailing from Next chief

FASHION chain Next caused a stir earlier this year, when it accused local councils of “Luddite intransigence and incompetence” for frustrating efforts to develop new out-of-town retail stores.

Lord Simon Wolfson
Lord Simon Wolfson

Next is creating a £10m Home and Garden store near Meadowhall, after the retailer won a battle with Sheffield Council, which had refused planning permission for the development.

Yorkshire business people will soon be able to get an insider’s view of the world of retailing from Lord Wolfson, Next’s chief executive, at the Sheffield Chamber of Commerce’s annual president’s dinner.

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The event will be at the Cutlers’ Hall on September 26, with around 300 guests expected to attend.

Sheffield Council, which refused planning permission for the Home and Garden Store last year, spent more than £31,000 defending its decision when developer British Land appealed to a public inquiry.

The council unsuccessfully argued that the £10m store would have a negative impact on city centre retail.

But planning inspector David Wildsmith dismissed the objection – along with the council’s claim that a suitable alternative site is available in the city centre. Earlier this year, Lord Wolfson strongly criticised Sheffield Council for refusing planning permission.

He said: “For too long Meadowhall has been blamed for the city centre’s failure. It’s a convenient excuse, but I’m afraid it won’t wash.

“Just look at the other great industrial cities of Britain. Manchester built its Arndale Centre extension despite the presence of a massive out-of-town Trafford Centre.”

Lord Wolfson joined Next in 1991, and was appointed to the board six years later.

He became managing director of the Next brand in 1999, and chief executive in 2001.

President of Sheffield Chamber Jon Stewart said yesterday: “With an inspiring personal story to tell, a new development in Sheffield, and the possibility of bringing more than 150 jobs to our city, Lord Wolfson will be an engaging speaker for this prestigious event.

“Sheffield’s retail industry is a topical issue and I’m sure Lord Wolfson will provide plenty of food for thought for guests on what the sector needs to do to achieve growth.”

Tickets for the president’s dinner are £60 plus VAT per person for chamber members and £70 per person for non-members.

All proceeds will go to the chamber’s charity of the year, Sheffield Young Carers, which provides support to 8-21 year-olds who are caring for someone at home.

Full details of how to obtain tickets are available on the chamber’s website www.scci.org.uk