IT was a mixed bag of views from traders as council chiefs offered free parking in South Shields town centre for a day in a bid to help boost trade.
The move was aimed at marking Small Business Saturday – a nationwide event calling on shoppers to support local traders.
But – while it had been hoped the abandonment of parking charges would lead to more people venturing into King Street – traders say they hadn’t seen much of a change in footfall.
They welcomed the Small Business Saturday initiative but say South Tyneside Council needs to do more to help traders in the borough’s main shopping area.
Anthony Hall, owner of Premier Furnishings, said: “It’s hard to tell if Small Business Saturday has brought any extra people into King Street.
“If it had been on a Tuesday or Wednesday, when the area is generally quiet, then you might have seen a difference.
“Saturday is the busiest day for the area so the success of the scheme is hard to gauge.”
He added: “As for the free parking, I have always said it should be free every day.
“I don’t think offering free parking for one day has made that much of a difference. If it was free every day you might get people coming back.”
Catherine Adams, who works in the Little Sweet Shop, in Fowler Street, said: “We have been quite busy but not as busy as we normally are.
“No one has really mentioned anything about the free parking, so I’m not sure if people have been made aware of it.
“I don’t think Small Business Saturday has made much difference to us in terms of trade. I don’t know if other places have seen an increase.”
Small Business Saturday is a campaign, to highlight small businesses and encourages consumers to “shop local” and support small businesses in their communities.
Phil Goodfellow, director of Northern Threads, which is based in Ocean Road, South Shields, said: “For me it has been a waste of time.
“This isn’t about local government doing anything. Small Business Saturday is a national intuitive, but for me it really has made no difference.
“I think the council really needs to take a long hard look at this place and do something about it.
“They need to look at lowering the rates and bringing in free parking to generate more business.
“Our sales are down 16 per cent from last year. Hopefully, with the last few weeks leading up to Christmas, we will see an increase in people coming into the town.”
Independent retailers in Dean Road, South Shields, were also celebrating small business Saturday.
Destination Dean Road was aimed at highlighting what the area has to offer to the residents of South Tyneside.
A total of 16 business took part in the event, which also saw South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck call in at shops on the day.