IT’S the familiar and friendly face, the value for money and the customer service that goes the extra mile that you just can’t find in a bustling city shopping centre.
It’s the chats with the market trader who is as much a pal as a proprietor and the chance to scour stall after stall for hidden treasures to buy that you can’t match with the click of a mouse.
While internet shopping and big city leisure complexes have a part to play in a thriving economy – there isn’t a price tag to be found that will equate to the worth of the spirit of independence of a thriving local shopping scene.
The Shields Gazette has joined forces with South Tyneside Council to encourage residents to sample the rich delights served up in the many eateries, independent shops and businesses that pack South Shields town centre and the rest of the borough.
The Shop Local, Eat Local, Play Local campaign is already proving a big hit with traders at South Shields Market.
Lisa McMahon, 44, who runs the Old Time Sweet Shop on the market place with husband Marc, says once residents get a taste of shopping local, they will always come back for another helping. Everything from sherbets, midget gems and cherry lips to dolly mixtures fills the colourful shelves of the mobile shop, which is a regular fixture at market places in the North East.
Mrs McMahon said: “So many sweet shops have closed down, you don’t see many around now.
“It’s just a better service when you shop local.
“You get a personal touch and better deals.
“And you always get a big smile.”
Kathy Wallace, who has her Occasional Gift Kathy stall at the Market Place three days a week with husband Ian, 61, says local traders can offer a more flexible approach to the needs of customers.
Mrs Wallace, 54, added: “We can offer different things and when customers come in wanting something in particular, I can make sure to get in in for next time.
“We have everything from perfume and quiz books and toys.”
Mrs Wallace keeps her product fresh and up-to-date with the theme of the season, be it teddy bears and cards for Valentine’s Day or gifts for Christmas or Easter.
She is encouraging more residents to make a stop at the market on their next tour of the high street.
Kevin Clark, 59, has fronted Kev’s Keys for 15 years and cuts straight to the chase when asked the secret to success – top-quality service.
Mr Clark provides key cutting and watch battery replacement and straps services that you can set your watch to.
He said: “I always get a good response and have a lot of regulars.
“I always aim to do a quick turn-around so people get what they need there and then, while they wait.”
Butcher Ian Baxter, the warm and friendly face that greets customers coming to the Premier Meats stall, dishes up some sound reasons why customers keep coming back for more.
Mr Baxter, 45, said: “People get better quality, better value and a more friendly service.
“I have a great banter with the customers, which is a big part of it.
“Loyal and regular customers are the backbone to your business.”