South Tyneside's non-essential shops buzzing to be back as doors reopen on April 12
Shopkeepers in South Tyneside are buzzing to be back.
Kaz Chowdhury, who also runs Radhuni’s restaurant on Ocean Road, opened his new King Street clothes shop, The Outlet, during the turbulent autumn period.
After a rocky first few months for his new business venture, he is now optimistic that shoppers will begin to return to the town centre.
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"We still think – and hope – there’s demand for people to come out and see what they’re buying in person, even in the age of online shopping,” he said.
"So we’re hopeful things will begin to look up again as we get closer to summer.”
He added: "The town centre’s already been looking slightly better, with more people out and about as restrictions begin to ease.
"Hopefully we should see quite a bit of footfall again.”
Traders had been hoping for a ‘Christmas bounce’ as shopfloor trading resumed temporarily in December after the second national lockdown,
But it wasn’t long before they were forced to shut under Tier 4 restrictions, with the third lockdown following soon after, as infection rates soared amid the spread of a highly contagious new Covid variant.
“It was quite a tough start for us,” said Mr Chowdry.
"We opened in September, which is always a quiet time anyway. And then we were hit with another lockdown in November and the latest restrictions just a few weeks later.
"With the lockdowns, we’ve not been able to move a lot of stock. So, when we do reopen, we will be offering discounts across most of our items.”
The owner of the Viking Tattoo studio in Jarrow, Chris Wright, said the nature of his business meant he was hopeful of bouncing back after reopening.
“The way I work now is I do mostly big projects that need booked appointments. So, luckily, all our new customers and people I had been working on have come back – and I’ll be starting where I left off again,” he said.
During the down time, Chris said he has been keeping busy on projects to improve his business and keep his hand in.
"I’ve been going down to rearrange things and I’ve redecorated the whole shop – just to feel like I’m doing something, to tell you the truth,” he said.
“The worst thing for me has been to keep my hand in with the tattooing. It’s like most arts – if you don’t keep on top of it, your work can suffer and you can begin to become detached from it.
"So what I’ve been doing with regards to that is a lot more painting and drawing at home, trying to do a bit every day. That’s been my therapy while I’ve been away from the tattooing.
Courtney Dadswell, of Marion’s Florist at the Nook in South Shields, is apprehensive, but hopes to see some familiar faces who have not passed through the shop‘s doors for more than a year.
"We’re really looking forward to having people in again – it’s been more than a year since we’ve seen some of our regulars in person,” she said.
"We’re used to adapting at this point and we’re looking forward to reopening again.
"We’ve been quite lucky because we’ve been able to operate to a degree with phone and online orders during the different lockdowns.