A GAP left in the heart of South Shields town centre by the closure of Marks & Spencer tomorrow will be filled as “soon as possible”, the leader of South Tyneside Council has pledged.
The iconic retail outlet is closing its King Street store after 80 years in the town.
Staff are to be relocated to the company’s Silverlink store in North Tyneside.
Now the focus has switched to what will replace it.
South Tyneside Council does not own the building. The owners are a London-based company which leases it to M&S.
But Coun Iain Malcolm said the authority was working closely with the landlord to ensure the outlet does not remain closed for too long.
He said: “We have made it very clear to Marks & Spencer that we are deeply disappointed at the closure of the King Street store and we have done all we can to encourage it to stay without success. It will be a sad day for the town.
“However we won’t let this deci sion stop us from pressing ahead with our regeneration plans, and we will be working hard to attract the investment needed to provide a high-quality shopping and leisure experience.”
He added: “Though the unit itself is privately-owned, as is the majority of King Street, we are discussing options for the future of the building with the landlord and we hope to support them and their commercial agent to market the space with the aim of getting it filled as soon as possible. We also hope to welcome Marks & Spencer back in the future as part of our long-term 365 vision.”
One short-term option which may be considered is putting in vinyls or coverings to make the front of the store more attractive.
However, the ultimate decision on that would be in the hands of the landlord.
A spokesman for M&S, which has a decades-long lease on the building, said its property team would seek to find a “suitable tenant”. Staff at the store have already staged a social evening to mark its departure.
The M&S spokeswoman said: “We will be closing at our normal time, 5.30pm, tomorrow, and the remaining stock will be transferred to other M&S outlets, including that at Silverlink, over the weekend.”
The store’s M&S signage will be removed in mid-April.