SOUTH Tyneside’s main shopping thoroughfare is facing two more damaging body blows.
Mothercare, the mother-and-baby products outlet, is to shut up shop in King Street, South Shields, from Wednesday, April 23.
That will be followed by the closure of confectionary retailer Thorntons on Saturday, May 31.
The news comes with King Street still reeling from the loss of the town’s Marks and Spencer store, after the retail giant relocated to North Tyneside last month.
Staff at Mothercare are either taking redundancy or have been found alternative employment with the company.
The latest closures will leave six vacant units in a row towards the top of half of King Street – located across from the now empty former M&S store – and fears have been raised about the impact in the street’s retail viability.
Amid the negativity, there was some more positive news.
McDonald’s fast food restaurant has now reopened after a major refit.
South Shields town centre is the subject of a £100m revamp plan, which is due to see a complete retail and leisure sector overhaul with the aim of making the town a 365-day-a-year destination.
Coun Iain Malcolm, leader of South Tyneside Council, said: “We’re committed to investing in South Shields town centre, and are working with our regeneration partner Muse to make significant changes in the town and pave the way for an expanded retail and leisure offer that will attract more shoppers.
“We appreciate times are tough for businesses, but those that stay with us will be part of a very exciting vision for the town. We’ve made huge investments in South Shields seafront, which was enjoyed by thousands of visitors over the weekend, and our ambition is to build on this and create a vibrant town centre with opportunities for businesses.”
Coun John Anglin, who chairs the Riverside community area forum, agrees that is the future – although he admitted the situation on the street was of concern.
He has called on people to “hold their nerve”.
He said: “I’ve said for some time that things could get worse in King Street before they get better.
“But I do believe that once people and members of the business community see the plans for the community hub at the old Wouldhave House site, which should be in the next month or so, they will see that what has been done on the foreshore will be replicated there.”
He added: “We have just got to hold our nerve and things will come good in the long run. I believe that South Shields town centre will be revived.”
It was not a view shared by Gavin Holder, owner of GHI Computers on King Street.
He said: “It’s not about ‘holding your nerve’.
“It’s about businesses closing and individuals losing their jobs.
“Without shops, there is no King Street, and without King Street there is no South Shields.
“I accept, to an extent, that the council does not have influence over what happens in King Street, but it does have an influence over parking and I have not handed out one refund through the parking redemption scheme that was introduced.”
Mothercare, which is reducing its stores across the UK, and Thorntons both declined to comment.