Is saving King Street a losing battle?

IN DECLINE .. King Street, South Shields.
IN DECLINE .. King Street, South Shields.

GENERATIONS are split on the long-term future of South Tyneside’s main shopping thoroughfare, according to a Gazette straw poll.

Concerns are growing over the continued viability of King Street, South Shields, as a major retail area.

The street’s Marks & Spencer store closed recently after 80 years of trading.

And the iconic brand will soon be followed out of town by both Mothercare and Thorntons confectionary outlet.

A special report by the Gazette on King Street this week also showed that almost one fifth of the units in the street are now vacant.

Against that backdrop, we asked borough shoppers if they could see light at the end of the retail tunnel.

We found that opinion was sharply divided on generational lines.

Older shoppers believe there is no future without worthwhile investment, amid a general consensus that there are too many discount shops.

And younger people expressed the need for more outlets that better cater for their needs.

Part-time cleaner Keith Ford, 67, of St Vincent Street, South Shields, said: “The council have been dragging their feet for a long time.

“There’s too many shops closing and no positive word on how they are going to improve it. There’s a lot of shoppers, but without the market this town centre would be a ghost town. It would be desolate.”

Waiter Harris Saunders, 16, from Westoe, South Shields, said: “King Street isn’t modern compared to Newcastle. There’s nothing for young people. It’s full of shops for old people and there is no reason for young people to come.”

Ivarna Henry, 59, of Beach Road, South Shields, who runs a computer business, said: “When I moved here 20 years ago, the town was vibrant and booming.

“There was a Marks & Spencer and a Woolworths. It is sad the way things are going at the moment, with the loss of M&S. I hope King Street will rise again, and I am optimistic of that happening.”

Musician Max Kreetcha, 31, originally from The Nook, South Shields, said: “Supermarkets are killing everything. There needs to be more of a draw to the town centre, other than loads of pound shops.”

Stephen Robertson, 57, from Stanley, is hoping to move to South Shields in the coming months.

He said: “They need to make it look more interesting and have a better range of shops.

“Some sort of interesting facade would be good and would draw the customers in. A bit like the front of the MetroCentre.

“I have to admit I prefer Sunderland’s high street to South Shields.

“I currently live in Stanley, but I’m hoping to move to South Shields soon. Stanley’s town centre is much worse than this, believe me.”

Pete Cunningham, 51, an entertainer from South London, said: “I come up here about three or four times a year to visit my mum and dad who live in Lawe Road, South Shields.

“Over the years I’ve noticed the town centre slowly fading away. High streets are dying all over the country, and I think I’d put it down to the rise of internet shopping.

“For this town to survive, it needs more high-profile shops to get more people coming to the area.

“I can’t see that happening to be honest when you have Newcastle just up the road.”

Twitter: @shieldsgazpaul