Reinvigorating South Shields Market
How do we help bring shoppers back to our town centre?
Three and a half years ago I wrote this post which was in essence a formulate idea for providing a temporary or semi permanent cover for South Shields Market Place. Lo and behold that little seed of an idea is now being talked about in town hall committee rooms as South Tyneside Council finally realises that something has to be done, fairly soon, to help inject some life back into the retailing heart of South Shields, many of the ideas being considered have already been raised here, but once again the general malaise of our councillors has affected the creative thinking of officers and the talking about, discussing, and/or consultative phase will drag on for years and years I fear.
OK, so the picture above was only intended to create a discussion point, something to think about, and the post threw in a few more ideas too, but there are others worth pursuing too and again once they get talked about in the town hall they enter a time warp, and do not reappear until a number of years later. I refer to embryonic proposals to introduce a niche marketing concept in the Barrington Street and Chapter Row area, a place for independent retailers with specialised interests to be used as a link or bridge between King Street and the new Asda and Waterloo Square areas. There is a similar scheme that has been working for a number years in the Vine Place area of Sunderland adjacent to Park Lane, and even in the depths of this recession they still have full occupancy of retail units there.
As for our market it is in decline, that cannot be denied, however it is not the only local market that is facing difficulties, Newcastle’s Quayside Sunday market has fewer traders and they too are facing increases in stall rates, Darlington’s market has all but moved indoors or decamped from its traditional home with stalls now appearing in the main shopping streets. Slightly further afield Catterick’s Sunday market at the racecourse appears to be flourishing.
So the big question is “how do we promote and reinvigorate retail in South Shields town centre and the Market Place?”
I have already offered suggestions that include discounted rates for advanced bookings of market stalls, a traditional Christmas Market such as the one seen in Grassington with inducements for traders to dress up in period costume (perhaps they could be allowed to erect their stalls in King Street as a reward), covering the Market Place, musical entertainment, a partner assisted free parking scheme, adding a farmer’s market to the Friday Flea market, and a few more, follow the links to see my thoughts over the past couple of years.
I know times are hard and retailing conditions are tough right now, and for years we have faced heavy competition from the indoor shopping arenas at Newcastle, Sunderland, Washington and The Metro Centre but we cannot be complacent and sit and wait for the economy to improve. Our council in South Tyneside needs to be proactive and needs to show greater intent by doing something to speed up their decision making processes and show some activity on the ground. The pace of progress needs to be picked up unless we wish to continually play “catch up” with our neighbours.
So, what are your thoughts on improving our retail heart and the Market Place? What would you like to see being done to increase variety and choice, what sort of shopping experience do you want?
Here’s a picture of a very small market development in Swindon (taken from Google Map’s Streetview, it has a semi permanent covering which can be raised or lowered depending to the weather conditions, they have a much larger one in the town centre.
I look forward to your thoughts and comments.