THE issue of parking charges and the profits raised continues to stir opinion among South Tyneside traders.
In a bid to boost business, South Shields town centre saw the launch of the ‘free’ car parking refund scheme in the run-up to Christmas, whereby customers get their parking reimbursed if they spend an agreed amount at a participating store.
Many traders still believe free parking is needed to boost footfall, but accepted the £467,000 generated by parking is a lot of money to South Tyneside Council.
Lynn Lucas, a market stall holder said: “I am genuinely quite shocked at the amount they’ve made.
“It’s no wonder they won’t scrap the charges if they’re guaranteed to make that kind of revenue.”
Anthony Kitson, owner of Just 4 Pets in Ocean Road, South Shields, said: “I’m not that surprised about the amount, but if you look at places like the MetroCentre and at the Washington Galleries, where I have another pet shop – you don’t have to pay to park there, and I do think that makes a difference for businesses. Both these places attract a lot more footfall than in Shields, they have more brands and choice, and people don’t have to pay.
“A customer’s average spend for me is about £9, but some days it’s so quiet I will be lucky to get 30 sales in Shields.
“Meanwhile, over at the Galleries I have achieved that by 11am.
“Something definitely needs to be done to boost trade.”
Chris Davies, manager of Clarks shoe store in King Street, said: “Here we have the council making money from car parking, but businesses who have signed up to the refund scheme have to fork out the costs back to customers.
“I am quite surprised by the amount, but I guess if the money is going back into the pot and being used to improve the town, then it’s not so bad.”
However, Colin Peat, manager of Edit clothing in the Denmark Centre, isn’t surprised by the amount at all – and he’s even less enthusiastic about the ‘free’ car parking initiative in operation.
He said: “It doesn’t shock me at all, and as for the free parking to boost Christmas trade, well that’s been a wash-out.
“We’ve not had one person redeem a ticket in here.
“I genuinely don’t think people know what it’s all about. There seems to be very little advertising, and nowhere says where the tickets can be used.”