VIRTUAL retail reality has come to South Shields.
Times are changing in King Street and suddenly the retail area, which has been struggling in recent months, is starting to look a lot busier and vibrant.
It’s the result of South Tyneside Council making use of vinyl windows to decorate empty shops – and promote its £100m ‘365’ vision to transform South Shields over the next decade.
One premises – the former Stead and Simpson shoe shop – has even been rebranded as ‘Virtual Fashion’, with images of handbags and shoes giving the impression it is still open for business.
This is a technique being used increasingly to enhance town centres.
With several outlets closing in the thoroughfare over recent months, there are plenty of premises to choose from.
Coun Michael Clare, the council’s lead member for regeneration and economy, said: “The South Shields 365 Town Centre vision is a high-profile campaign that South Tyneside Council is wanting to let as many people know about as possible.
“We thought by using the empty shop windows it would not only enhance their general frontage but also be a great way of letting shoppers, residents and visitors know about our potential plans.
“Our vision to regenerate South Shields town centre will be of massive benefit to local people and businesses in South Tyneside.
“We are looking to actively work with the business community to provide them with updated information and to involve them in helping to raise the profile of the campaign.”
The other ‘virtual’ shops being redecorated include the former Customs House ticket sales outlet and the Mark One fashion store, next to the recently closed HMV store.
And it has been revealed that there had been plans to carry out the work at more premises.
A council spokesman said: “There were plans to place the vinyl windows at more premises, but those shops subsequently got actual tenants moving in – which is good news in itself.”
Recent closures in the street have included the Flossy shoe shop, Thompsons electrical store and the Bay Biscuit Factory.
They have been partly offset by the opening of a new Sports Direct outlet, which recently moved into the former JJB Sports store.
South Shields 365 will see the creation of a cinema, library and hotel in the town, among a raft of other regeneration work.