Many of you will have already heard the news that the Marks & Spencer store in King Street will be closing at the end of this month.
I am sure readers will agree that this is very disappointing news, and that our high street will not be the same without one of our most popular retailers.
Last week I held crisis talks with M&S, who told me that a sharp decline in customers over the last two years meant they felt the branch had to close.
Personally, I disagree – the store has always been one of Shields’ busiest – and that is why I have signed the Gazette’s petition calling on M&S to return to our town as soon as possible.
M&S is only the latest in a long line of businesses to leave King Street, as the cost-living crisis means people have less money available to spend on the high street.
The closure of this store contrasts with what we are hearing from the Government, who want the country to believe the economic crisis is over.
Last week’s news that M&S is joining more than 40,000 vacant shops on Britain’s high streets, exposes that claim as wishful thinking.
To rebuild our high streets we need to attract new businesses to Shields – Labour wants to cut and freeze business rates to support existing shops and make opening new stores more viable.
But the type of shops that open is also important, and that is why Labour wants to give local people a say in the kind of businesses that are able to open in their area.