A ‘FREE’ car parking scheme in South Shields got off to a stuttering start at the weekend.
South Tyneside Council has joined forces with retailers to allow shoppers to claim back the cost of parking if they spend a certain amount in participating stores.
Depending on the shop, the refunds are paid to people spending between £10 and £50.
Among the traders to have signed up to the scheme are Argos, Greenwoods, Clarks, Northern Threads, GHI Computers and Just for Pets. South Tyneside Council is still in talks with others.
Saturday was the scheme’s first day but it got off to a slow start.
Yvonne Lacy, 67, from Jarrow visits the town centre every other week with her family, and believes the initiative is a good idea - but she knew nothing about it.
Mrs Lacy said: “It’s the first I’ve heard about it. I wouldn’t know where to use the ticket to be honest. It doesn’t seem to tell you.
“But if you can claim your cash back, then it is a good idea. Every little helps.”
Jen Menzies, a health visitor from Harton, South Shields, also thinks the initiative is worthwhile but, again, wasn’t too sure what to do with her ticket.
She said: “I noticed the two bits of the ticket came out of the machine, but I was left a bit confused as to what to do with the other bit.
“It’s not been very well explained.”
John Barker, 32, a web designer from South Shields, also didn’t know how the scheme worked.
He said: “I don’t know where I can go to redeem the price of my ticket. To be honest I don’t think I would really bother.
“At a lot of the shops you have to spend at least £50, which I couldn’t imagine doing in Shields anyway.
“I’d have got just over £1 back. I can’t really seeing it being that popular.”
The shops were also having a poor uptake of customers redeeming their tickets, but most remained confident the scheme would take off.
Chris Davies, store manager at Clarks shoe shop in King Street, said: “I signed up to the scheme because I do think it is a good idea and a good way to get people into the town.
“We’re also going to be open from noon to 4pm on Sundays on the run-up to Christmas, which will hopefully boost trade.
“We haven’t had anybody redeem a ticket yet, but it’s very early days and I think it will take off.”
Colin Peat, manager at Edit Clothing, at the Denmark Centre, said: “We’ve not had anyone use their tickets in here yet, but it’s only the first day. Hopefully it will pick up.”
Anthony Kitson, owner of Just 4 Pets in Ocean Road, is willing to try anything to increase footfall.
He said: “Nobody has been in yet, but I am willing to try anything to get footfall down this end of the street.
“It tends to be a bit forgotten compared to King Street. Soon I am going to be offering a free microchipping event, and I’m going to get school children to sing carols outside of the shop.
“I am hoping the free parking will attract more shoppers once the word gets out.”