EMPTY shops in King Street, South Shields, could be a thing of the past, thanks to a new digital shopping wall.
Thought to be one of the first in the country, a vacant unit in the town’s main shopping street has been transformed to help four small businesses boost trade.
The shopfront has been liveried to promote four small traders, complete with their own QR codes, which can be scanned using a smart phone.
The plan is for shoppers to scan the codes and be taken to the companies’ websites or online shops, giving the opportunity to buy from them directly.
And it’s hoped a boost in trade will see those shops ultimately have a physical presence on King Street, not just a virtual one.
The four businesses – tea and gift shop Mac ‘N Alli, Little Angels cards and gifts and jewellery company The Finishing Touch along with The Customs House theatre – are among the first retailers in the country to be promoted in this unique way.
The virtual store is a joint venture between South Tyneside Council and Wiltshire-based company City Dressing, which specialises in transforming city and town centre spaces.
Jeremy Rucker, of City Dressing, said: “Although we create all kinds of imaginative solutions to transform city centre spaces, this is the first time we’ve created a digital shopping wall which will link shoppers directly to the internet.
“We worked with South Tyneside Council to pick four different companies which could benefit from this kind of presence but at present can’t afford to take premises on the high street.
“It’s a perfect solution for them, and one which we believe many other towns and cities will now follow.”
Dee Clayton, of Mac ‘n’ Alli’s, said the shop was delighted to be involved in the scheme.
She added: “Because we’re quite tucked away in Westoe Crown Village and don’t really have a budget for advertising, we’ve had to rely on word of mouth so something like this helps get some attention.
“We’ve very keen for people to find out who we are and what we’re about, so we jumped at the chance to be involved.”
Coun Alan Kerr, deputy leader of South Tyneside Council, said the digital wall was a great way to give small businesses a higher profile.
He added: “This initiative plays an integral part of our commitment to growing the retail sector in the borough.
“And, of course, the ultimate aim is to create enough awareness and to drive enough business to these retailers so that they are able to eventually have a physical presence on the high street.”