Deborah Holmes, businesswoman

Deborah Holmes
Deborah Holmes
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Deborah Holmes, who has died at 56, following a cancer diagnosis, was the daughter of a Grimethorpe miner and a care home cook, who rose to become a successful businesswoman, helping to create thousands of jobs and regenerating often run down areas of the North as award-winning retail developments.

Marshall’s Yard in Gainsborough, Lime Square in Openshaw, Manchester, and Fox Valley in her home town of Stocksbridge, Sheffield, were among the creations of Ms Holmes and her husband of 25 years, Mark Dransfield.

Her first experience of retail life was far from glamorous, as a teenage assistant, with her sister, Amanda, in their father Dennis’s corner shop.

A pit accident had forced him out of the coalfields and into the steel works in Stocksbridge, before he bought a small grocery shop in the town.

After studying history at Sheffield University, Deborah mixed her love of journalism with business and set up her own free newspaper in her home town. The Stocksbridge Trader was initially an eight-page monthly free sheet but by the time she sold it in 1993, it was a 24-page weekly.

She met Mark, a builder from Hull, when they appeared as rivals on the Yorkshire Television business contest, Enterprise, in 1988. He was the winner; Deborah the runner-up.

They married in 1992 and she raised their daughters, Rebecca and Lucy, while also being an active partner in their family business, Dransfield Properties.

Some 10 years in the planning, the development at Fox Valley was among her proudest achievements. Stocksbridge had struggled economically after its steelworks closed, and realising that a department store could be a new jewel in its crown, she decided to establish her own – and Sandersons opened as a boutique store in September 2016.

She put her own stamp on it from day one, inviting her family and friends to cut the ribbon. She employed a nearly all-female staff and targeted women customers aged over 35 – a neglected market, she felt.

Her instinct was validated by Sandersons’ continued success in a difficult high street climate.

Away from business, she helped to raise money for many causes, including more than £500,000 for Sheffield’s Children’s Hospital, for whom she set up an annual ball.

Her cancer diagnosis came six years ago, but she kept the details private, expect for close family and friends, and her store opening came during her chemotherapy.

She died at St Luke’s Hospice, Sheffield.