IT was launched by Town Hall chiefs in the hope of boosting retail trade in South Shields town centre.
But 12 months on, the parking redemption scheme has been labelled a flop by some traders.
First announced last August, the scheme allowed shoppers to park up in town and have the cost of their ticket refunded by a participating retail outlet, providing they had spent an agreed amount in store.
But a number of retailers who originally signed up for the scheme have told the Gazette that, almost 12 months down the line, it had failed to bolster trade.
Phil Goodfellow, co-owner at Northern Threads in Ocean Road, South Shields, said: “It’s been a complete flop. No one uses it.
“In actual fact it’s quite embarrassing to be handing over 20p back for parking when someone spends £10, or whatever it is. It just hasn’t worked.”
Mr Goodfellow said free parking – for at least parts of the year or certain times of the day – was a much better solution.
He said: “This redemption scheme was just too obscure, too difficult to operate.
“My solution would be free parking at certain times or on certain days like Bank Holiday Sundays, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.
“We need something that would entice people into the town and stop them heading off to the MetroCentre or Newcastle instead.”
Homefair Blinds, in Fowler Street, had just one customer take up the offer this year.
A staff member said: “The one woman who did ask for her parking fee back had only spent £30 in shop, but had previously put a deposit down for £20, so we eventually agreed to repay her parking.
“To be quite honest nobody else has even asked about it.”
Julie Smith, assistant manager at Clarks shoe shop in King Street, said: “We’ll probably get an average of maybe three or four customers a month taking up the offer.
“You can’t say it’s been a massive success but it’s better than nothing.”
Other local traders have also been unimpressed by the scheme.
Anthony Kitson, owner of Just 4 Pets in Ocean Road, described it as a “waste of time” earlier this year after only one customer used it in almost three months.
He said: “In my opinion it has been an utter waste of time. I signed because I hoped it would help trade but it hasn’t.
“It just hasn’t been worth it and I really don’t think it is worth continuing with it.”
Gavin Holder, owner of GHI Computers in King Street, felt free parking outright would have been better.
He said at the time of the scheme’s launch: “Why can’t the council provide free parking at weekends or at least provide free parking four or five hours of the day?”
However, it received more encouragment from Jack Coxon, deputy manager at Greenwoods on King Street, who said: “The scheme is a help and is a step in the right direction.”
And Julie Fowler, assistant manager at Bon Marche in King Street, added: “Our customers like the scheme.
“If they spend £20 or more in store they get their parking refunded, so it is a perk for them.”
A spokeswoman for South Tyneside Council said: “The parking redemption scheme, which came into force last winter, gives traders and customers the opportunity to benefit from free parking.
“The scheme was introduced to provide retailers with a tool to encourage shoppers to the town centre while the wider regeneration plans are underway.
“The scheme will stay in place as an incentive as a number of traders have found the scheme to be popular with their customers.”