'We are all partly to blame' - shoppers lament the plight of South Shields town centre

Shoppers have been lamenting the woes of South Shields town centre and remembering the lost shops they once loved.

Wednesday, 13th March 2019, 2:10 pm
Updated Wednesday, 13th March 2019, 2:18 pm

Dozens of stores have closed in the past ten years as the town suffers similar struggles to other high streets, with shops closing and footfall falling.

The gloomy financial times and growth of internet shopping have all taken their toll, and other traders have bemoaned uncertainties over Brexit among their other problems.

Some new businesses have moved into the town to replace those closing down, but some shoppers have been unhappy to see bargain stores and charity shops opening in what were prime retail spots.

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South Tyneside Council has been pressing ahead with its 365 project for the town, claiming it is 'the biggest transformation in its history', which has already seen The Word opened and new transport interchange take shape, with other developments planned to boost South Shields' fortunes.

Gazette readers have been having their say on issues facing the town centre on our Facebook page.

Donna Watson said: "We are all partly to blame as, before the internet, we would have gone into town for all our needs. Today we can order online without even leaving the house."

As well as the string of more recent closures, readers remembered with fondness and sadness the shops now long-gone.

Donna said Woolworths, Marks & Spencer and Adams were among her favourites that have gone.

Caroline Cameron added TG Allan and Binns.

Adam Surtees said: "That's Entertainment and HMV."

Pauline Clouston said: "Claire's Accessories...Warren James...Caxton shoes...G.K.Lee... Geordie Jeans.. and there's so many more. If you like phone shops..charity shops and pound shops you're laughing."

Some of those commenting highlighted that the problem of shop closures wasn't specific to South Shields, but there were some issues at play which left the town suffering more than most.

While many of the closures were down to companies which were struggling nationally, other towns and cities had seen chains' branches staying open while South Shields' outlets were among those to shut after the firms were taken over or rescued.

Tom Martin said: "Look at most towns up and down the country, they've suffered the same. This is a national issue, not just a South Shields thing.

"It doesn't help here that we have Sunderland, Newcastle, the MetroCentre, The Galleries, Royal Quays all within easy reach. Never mind the impact internet shopping has had on virtually every high street.

"I use South Shields for normal stuff I need, I use the pound shops and happy to do so, I visit B&M and now Home Bargains regularly, every time I visit town I go to Wilko and I also visit the market every week.

"If I want to go clothes shopping, I go to Newcastle though, even if every shop in Shields was clothing, there would still be a lot more selection up in Newcastle. I also buy a lot of stuff that I don't need to touch and feel before buying online, it saves me carrying it.

"The simple fact of it is, a lot of chain stores and brands are struggling and need to streamline their business to the most profitable stores in the most profitable areas and South Shields simply isn't a big money catchment area.

"It's all fine moaning about those that have closed. But if people are being absolutely honest about it, how many would actually go and spend their wages in those places regularly enough to make those stores profitable.

"You can't compare to the 70s/80s when Shields was always busy. There was no internet shopping back then and heck before the MetroCentre and before the Metro coming to South Shields, it was a lot more practical to shop much more locally than it was to go to other towns. "

Agnes George said: "Well said! It isn't all the council's fault. The council don't own all the buildings. There isn't a endless pit of money either.

"The money from central government is cut year after year, yet they still have to provide the services."

Helen Scott said: "About two thirds of these shops went into administration, I agree that there isn't a lot of choice in shields, but if the two thirds of shops are closing across the country is not just a local problem."

Jean Dickinson said: "Very sad situation all the improvements going on with the metro and the bus station etc but no shops to visit."

David Paulsen said: "Greedy Landlords are the issue! 2014 was seemingly a really bad year for closures."

However, there were those who still feel that the council are at least partly to blame. Other town and city centres have not suffered as badly, they said.

Joanne Brennan said: "South shields has thousands of bus trippers every year to our beaches (which are superb) in the 80s Sunderland was on par with South Shields for shopping.

"Look at the difference now. Sunderland Council got it right, ours wants to spend millions on a bus station that without decent shops will be useless. Internet shopping has killed the high street, but not Sunderland, Newcastle, MetroCentre.

"South Shields shopping centre is like Laygate, run down and full of tat."

Alan Dowson said: "The council is working with plans that are 15 years old and historic and simply won't work.

"Could have moved the market stalls onto King street and even had a international food market once per month. Could have built restaurants, bars and cafes at the market place to fit the theme of the cinema that probably wont go ahead, but instead lets build a library, a new Metro station and build a new Job Centre for the increasing loss of jobs in the town centre."

Jordan Kyle said: "There is literally nothing I am interested in buying in South Shields. The place is barren of goods of any interest to today's buying generation. So outdated it may as well be a museum."

Peter Watt said: "Even a charity shop closed."