The Knightsbridge emporium is to open in Leeds. The editor of the Barnsley Chronicle is sceptical about the Sloanes' favourite store heading north
You're coming to Leeds. Absolutely fabulous. Or, as you may imagine we say around here, absolutely champion.

Northern towns have had a rough time of things since, well, the Industrial Revolution. But they're pulling round, and five floors of fashion, fragrance and food sounds just the thing to get the economy back on its feet.

It's odd Mrs Thatcher never thought of it; there could have been Harvey Nicks in every town by now. Heaven knows, there are still plenty of boarded- up shops to accommodate them. She would probably have called it retail empowerment.

No doubt there will be dancing in the streets in uptown Alwoodley, if not downtown Beeston, at the prospect of greater shopping choice for those little essentials: 50 varieties of olive oil, underpants at pounds 34.95 a pair and, perhaps, sun-dried turnips.

Your marketing services director congratulates Leeds on being "a city that attracts professionals and a city where people go clubbing; a place where they will pay pounds 350 to pounds 400 for a Dolce and Gabbana bra top".

In a city where many people find trouble raising pounds 400 for a 10th-hand Cortina, I wonder if your view is not just a shade rose-tinted? I know you resist the title "department store", but the history of the genre in the West Riding has not been glorious in recent years. Ask Alan Bennett.

The world-weary shoppers who bought their best worsteds in Brown Muffs or Marshall and Snelgrove or Mathias Robinson and whose wry dialogue stirred his pen are not, I think, the sort who would spend time agonising between pesto and tapenade.

Many will visit you, but who will buy? We already have retail spectaculars. Yet for many people the Meadowhall experience represents just that: economically enforced retail voyeurism, non-consumable entertainment.

You will be an asset to the region; certainly to the professional, clubbing, bra-topper class, and to the flashier inhabitants of that affluent triangle that encompasses Harrogate, Wetherby and Leeds. We have our Patsys, too. But I fear you may never be a part of it. The soul of a city lives in its market, and in the domed splendour of the Victorian Kirkgate Market resides much of what is characteristically Leeds.

I remember the stupendous display of disdain when I once asked for directions in your Knightsbridge store, the arctic welcome from the bored-looking young Sloane in perfumes. I doubt you would find that in the narrow alleyways of Leeds market, between the lofty pyramids of apples and grapefruit.

Maybe that's because it practises inclusive, not exclusive, selling. Maybe it's because it exudes generosity of spirit, colour, humour. Maybe it's because Leeds, home of Marks & Spencer, knows a thing or two about the human science of retailing from which your staff may profit.

Meanwhile, with jackets at pounds 900 and beds at pounds 3,000, send in the crowds ...

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