The call for free parking in South Shields town centre was made clear on Saturday as shoppers took advantage of the one-day only offer.
Traders and the public have been calling for South Tyneside Council to abandon charges on its car parks as a way of saving King Street.
They feel more people would come to the town for their shopping, which in turn would encourage more retailers into the area.
It is a call yet to be acted on by council chiefs.
However, traders say the abandonment of parking charges on Saturday to mark Small Business Saturday was a welcomed move – but is something that should be made permanent.
Council-owned car parks in South Shields town centre are free of charge after 3pm throughout December.
Council chiefs say the ‘Free after Three’ initiative has been introduced to support town centre businesses and traders and give shoppers a little extra Christmas cheer.
Coun Tracey Dixon, the council’s lead member for area management and community safety, said: “It’s important to support both businesses and shoppers where we can. The run up to Christmas is an expensive time of year and we are hoping this initiative will benefit residents and businesses alike.”
One shopper, who wished not to be named, said: “I think it’s a great idea to have free parking but it should be every day and in every car park, not just for one day.
“It has been quite confusing as one of the machines has a notice on it saying it is free parking, but the other machine doesn’t.
“It was only because I came to this machine I realised I didn’t have to pay. I did hear someone say you have to pay in the car park outside of the shops in Waterloo Square, so it is confusing. But it is a good idea overall.”
Another shopper added: “Having free parking will get people into the town.
“I don’t think there should be a charge on parking as there isn’t that many shops here.
“But if more people come, then more shops might come.
“I definitely think free parking needs to happen and not just for one day.”
Anthony Hall, owner of Premier Furnishings added: “You can see people are clock watching when they come into King Street, so they aren’t relaxed when they come here.
“If there was free parking people would be able to come and browse in the shops instead of dashing around and only getting what they need instead of having a good look around.”