PRIMARK and Waitrose are the contrasting retailers favoured to fill the huge retail void which will be left in King Street, South Shields, by Marks & Spencer pulling out.
News that the iconic brand is to depart the town after 80 years has been met with shock and sadness.
Pleas for the retailer to rethink the decision appear to have fallen on deaf ears.
And even though all staff are to be relocated to the firm’s premises in North Tyneside, the loss of M&S is a body blow to the already struggling town centre shopping thoroughfare.
The Gazette has launched a petition to reflect the deep disappointment that people in the borough feel.
But, with the strore set to close at the end of next month, thoughts inevitably turn to what will replace it. The premises takes up a sizeable chunk of King Street and the impact of its loss would be deepened if no suitable replacement was found.
We asked shoppers what their chosen successor should be.
For teenage hairdresser Vickie Woodward, 18, from Boldon, the answer was simple – she wants to see the discount clothing retailer Primark move into town.
She said: “I’d love Primark to come to Shields. There is a Primark in Sunderland and Newcastle, so why not? They sell cheap and attractive clothing and it appeals to young people.
“That’s one thing I think the town lacks, shops for younger people, apart from maybe River Island.”
Retired factory worker Margaret Urwin, 82, of Birchington Avenue, South Shields, said she would prefer to see a more “upmarket” retailer fill the gap.
She said: “We don’t want to see another discount shop. I would like to see something like Fenwicks or Waitrose. We had Binns and then that went. Now Marks & Spencer has gone we don’t have a quality retailer left in the town. That’s what we need.”
George Larman, 75, travels from his home in Gateshead each week to shop at the town’s M&S and enjoy a fish supper in Colmans restaurant. But the iconic retailer’s exit from town means he’s less likely to make the trip.
He said: “Gateshead is a ghost town. That’s why we come to Shields. It’s disappointing that M&S is going and it may make us reconsider coming here.
“Whatever replaces it has to be a high-quality retailer. What’s certain is that if a top retailer doesn’t replace it, a lot of people will leave Shields for Sunderland and Newcastle.”
JobCentre worker Shannon Goodall, 21, admits she may be one of the reasons why King Street is in decline. She does most of her shopping online.
She added: “I’d like to see a PC World or a Currys on the street – that’s what it is lacking. That’s the only thing that would make me more likely to shop in town.”
Ex-Royal Navy serviceman Frederick Garrett, 82, of Biddick Hall, South Shields, said: “Whatever takes its place has to be a respected food outlet. Maybe Sainsburys would be an option.”
His wife, former machinist Janet, 80, said: “It will take a big name to fill the gap Marks & Spencer leaves. I hope a big firm comes forward. I would welcome most things – apart from another charity shop.”