A PETITION urging retail giant Marks & Spencer to return to South Shields has gathered almost 2,000 signatures – and there’s still time to add your name.
There has been upset in the borough since the Gazette revealed the company is closing its King Street branch and transferring staff to North Tyneside.
The store, which opened in 1934, will bring to an end 80 years of trading when it shuts its doors for the last time on Saturday.
Its 37 staff will be relocated to M&S’s larger store at Silverlink in North Tyneside.
M&S bosses cited a decline in sales and the high cost of modernising the King Street shop among reasons for its closure.
Amid much outcry, the Gazette started a petition for people to register their disappointment at the decision, and to urge the firm to move back to the town at the earliest possible opportunity. The forms will then be presented to M&S.
There’s still time to add your name. Among those who have already signed the petition are South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck, council leader Iain Malcolm, the Mayor, Coun Ernest Gibson, and Customs House chief Ray Spencer.
Mrs Lewell-Buck said: “The announcement was a huge disappointment, and I’m not surprised that so many people have got involved in this campaign.
“M&S has been one of our most popular retailers, and to lose them is a big blow to our town centre. But with more than £100m of investment in our town centre on the way as part of South Tyneside Council’s South Shields 365 project, I believe firms like M&S will soon be looking to return.
“The great response from local people to The Shields Gazette’s petition proves there is plenty of demand, and I am pleased to back the campaign.”
Coun Malcolm said: “I congratulate the Gazette on taking this initiative, and I hope the people of South Tyneside and outside the borough get behind this petition, so the board of Marks & Spencer is left in no doubt that we want to see the brand back in South Shields as part of the 365 masterplan.
“We will be working with Marks & Spencer on their long-term plans, and will make every effort to accommodate them back in town in the future.”
Barbara Heslop, Marks & Spencer’s regional manager for the North East, said: “We’re creating a bigger, better store at Silverlink that will serve all of our customers’ needs. As a result, we are relocating our South Shields team and closing our store there.
“This is not a decision that we have taken lightly, but we believe extending our Silverlink store is the right decision for M&S and our customers.”
Coun Gibson added: “Let’s hope the Gazette’s petition will do something to persuade M&S of the benefits of having a store here in South Shields, especially with the council’s 365 programme.”
Signed petitions can be returned to the Gazette office in Chapter Row, South Shields. The petition can also be signed onlined at www.shieldsgazette.com