THE two biggest retail outlets in South Tyneside’s main shopping thoroughfare will both be off the menu at the beginning of next month.
Marks & Spencer, in King Street, South Shields, is to close for the final time on Saturday, March 29.
And the McDonald’s fast foot outlet, at the opposite end of the street, is now closed until Monday, April 7. It shut on Sunday for a three-week refit.
A sign at the premises says: “Thank you for your patience and we look forward to welcoming you back.”
Fellow traders today expressed surprise at the McDonald’s closure, with the firm telling customers the work will “reimagine your restaurant”.
But concern has been expressed that town-centre trade will decline during the period of the work.
Sue Glossop-Freebody, manager of the YMCA, in Ocean Road, said: “I’m really surprised that it is going to be closed for that long.
“I thought it would be just a couple of days, that they’d work through the night to get it back open as soon as possible.
“It will definitely have an impact on footfall in the town. McDonald’s is always really busy. Whenever I send over staff to get some food they are away quite a time.
“It’s very popular with the kids and is open later at night. People go there after the pubs close.”
Michael Minchella, owner of Minchellas cafe in Ocean Road, was less concerned at the fast food outlet’s prolonged absence from the high street.
He said: “Since it’s closed we’ve been a bit busier, so that’s positive for us.
“There are alternative food outlets and we should look at this in a positive way. It means that a business is investing in a premises in the town centre. That shows a commitment to the town.”
Louise Ogunona, owner of the Little Sweet Shop, in Fowler Street, said: “It’s bound to have an impact on footfall.
“Footfall has certainly fallen since I opened up the shop a year ago in November and there are other shops planning to leave the town centre too.”
Coun Audrey McMillan, who represents the Beacon and Bents ward for Labour, said: “I suppose you have to look at the longer-term picture.
“The refit is a necessary evil in a way because McDonald’s are investing in the premises and the refurbished outlet will provide a better service to the public.”
A spokesman for McDonald’s said: “As of Sunday, March 16, our South Shields restaurant is temporarily closed for reimaging work.
“It will take approximately three weeks, and the restaurant is scheduled to reopen in early April.”