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Reinvigorating South Shields Market

with 11 comments

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.

A market in Swindon

A market in Swindon

I look forward to your thoughts and comments.

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Written by curly

March 20, 2011 at 10:56 am

11 Responses

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  1. Town centre regeneration and revitalising of local marketplaces are current preoccupations, so there is a lot of information available. A politician from one of the minority groupsor someone with local electoral ambitions could “strike a cord” with local stakeholders by researching this field and promoting suggestions and initiatives in respect of SS Town centre and marketplace.


    March 20, 2011 at 1:01 pm

  2. The idea of some form of cover over the market was mooted several years ago but some officers in the council were not supportive (not even for a feasibility study). A fabric cover as your illustration suggests could be self supporting and (presumably) comparatively cheap. While this is being considered could the theme be carried on down King Street giving a form of covered shopping ?


    March 20, 2011 at 6:09 pm

  3. I would like to see the market remain open air and retain its 18th century character. I’m not a great fan of cheap tat but would support local craft markets, local food markets (farmers’ markets), Music markets, a local history market, a South Shields festival market (fish, Asian food, traditional Geordie fare). These could be used to attract people into the town and indeed into other local businesses. Quality counts and the town centre of South Shields is being overtaken with cheap tatty shops and little of note. Themed days, such as those I’ve mentioned would need some advertising and perhaps some sponsorship but may perhaps present an interesting attraction for potential visitors, they could be held bimonthly. How about the town manager encouraging themed shopping events such as scarecrow competitions where each shop provides a scarecrow display in or on their shop frontage for five days at the end of summer with a small award ceremony at the conclusion? This is very popular in some villages. Again, cheap to do and would invoke a sense of community similar to the pancake race that Curly was alluding to. I’m sure someone like the Gazette would provide a small certificate and be willing to show the winners efforts. We need to reinvigorate a new sense of ‘Sandancer community’ and use this type of events to get some of the larger and smaller national outlets more involved. However, please don’t cover the market in. It just wouldn’t be right.


    March 20, 2011 at 6:25 pm

  4. The single most important measure is to cover over King Street. I can remember Sunderland when it was open to the elements and it was as grim as King Street.

    On a wider note we should have bridged the sea front to the town centre. When Westoe shut down there was a one off opportunity to develop a bridge by developing the site as a covered in retail space.


    March 20, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    • Again, I refer to tat and tardiness. Look at what was Gateshead indoor market, Sunderland indoor market, Jarrow indoor market, they become little more than semi permanent poor quality non-travelling shops. We already have shops! They also need a good deal of maintainance, cleaning, they cost money to design and create, they retain smalls and birds (if they are able to enter. The traditional market has a charm of its own, would retain the appearance of our Old Town Hall (which shoould be used more often), and give an impression of space. Similarly enclosing whole streets would diminish natural sunlight and cost even more. Why not simply make far more of what we have? We don’t need to spend a great amount to have simple good improvements in our borough.


      March 21, 2011 at 7:31 am

      • Why don’t you have a day trip to Bury and see a successful market. It’s not just outdoors but integrates two indoor markets.

        Butchers, fishmongers, anything that requires refrigeration almost necessitates a covered market.

        Indoor markets need not turn to tat and tardiness take a look at the markets integrated within the Victoria Centre Nottingham. Poor management causes such degeneration.


        March 23, 2011 at 5:18 pm

  5. I am a great believer in looking at and, where possible, adopting/adapting best practices elsewhere, and that is what our Town Centre Manager and interested councillors should be doing, as well as consulting with local stakeholders, such as some of the constructive contributors to this site. Ditch party politics and factions think South Shields and South Tyneside 2020.


    March 21, 2011 at 8:28 am

  6. LL.B Your right its not about party politics, Its about South Shields as a town and of course South Tyneside.


    March 21, 2011 at 10:33 am

    • One thing to remember about commerce and market / street traders, our commercial premises in South Shields pay a substantial business rate and they would be uncomfortable should preference be given to those such as market stalls and street traders who do not (especially if they sell similar items). That is why I advocate for speciality and cultural markets that are held with reasonable intervals and that will enhance the business of others by attracting visitors, not detract from it.


      March 22, 2011 at 9:00 am

      • In response to Steve, hi Steve. I’ve been to both markets, they are far bigger than the area being discussed i.e. Shields Market Place. Furthermore, they would require a great deal of investment. I’m not keen on Bury it lacks the heart and soul of a town centre, and it cannot be described as a traditional market. The same goes for Nottingham. In South Shields, we have a fine Old Town Hall next to the church of St Hilda with a typical market space. Whilst in the summer we aim to attract visitors to events near to the sea front, why not make more use of the space we have in the Market Place to attract and entertain, as well increase visitor spend and footfall. I would love to see the cultural influence of music, drama, local Asian influence and colour being hoisted there. I do recognise that tastes do differ what I see as being tat others may see as being Paradise, some like indoor markets I do not. Does South Shields have the verve for culture being exposed? Can the ‘canny folk’ of South Shields see themselves enjoying more colour and open theatre? I think they do and can, and the cost of such a project being launched would not be vastly expensive and should yield a high rate of income and improve the status and standing of the town and South Tyneside.


        March 23, 2011 at 7:21 pm

  7. Covering King Street is definitely not the way to go – the main high street of any town centre should be the heart of the whole town, be representative of it, be vibrant, busy and varied. The recent news that the Criterion is about to be turned into yet. another. betting. shop. turns my stomach. There is so much short-sightedness in S/Shields at the moment, quick cash, get the money while we can etc. It’s only long term efforts which will (eventually) turn anything around, but the council treating commercial and residential areas in the same way they treat pot holes (i.e. quick patch jobs) will just contribute to the downturn.

    We can’t turn back the clock, but we can use hindsight. In hindsight, should S/Shields, as a town, have allowed the authentic and original shop fronts of King Street to be ripped out and replaced with giant steel and plastic boxes, which, at the time, would have been modern, easy to maintain, hassle-free? Would it, in hindsight, not have been better to keep King Street as authentic and original as possible, using it’s true character to help attract tourists, high end shops and commercial businesses and attract shoppers/day trippers from out of town?

    If people travel to S/Shields via the ferry, or the metro, the first thing they will be welcomed with, if we covered King Street and the market place, wouldn’t be a town full of variety and character, it would be a monstrous indoor shopping mall, and I doubt very much it would end up being anything like the ‘quality’ of (god help us even if it did) the Metrocentre. I could see it ending up as a cross between Jarrow indoor market and the struggling Grainger/Green markets in Newcastle. Empty, soulless and thoroughly depressing.

    People these days want originality, authenticity. If they’re spending what little money they have, they want their products to be true and proper. The town centre should be an aspirational place, somewhere people want to visit, to work even. There needs to be some real effort and foresight from those on the council who determine the way Shields is to go, covering a main high street up isn’t a sign of pride, it’s a sign of ‘keep it out of sight, out of mind’. No one cares about the weather! 90% of the year up and down the UK it’s either raining or cold. If people had somewhere worth visiting, they would go regardless of the weather.

    We are in danger, as a town, of becoming a series of modular new build boxes, stretching all the way from Westoe Crown village at the coast, all the way to the river via King Street and the market. I welcome new architecture: bold and confident buildings, architects and developers who are truly passionate about what they are producing, but dull-as-dishwater beige bricks, copied and pasted housing, safe ‘trying-to-please-everyone-because-we-wouldn’t-want-to-upset-the-neighbours’ style building makes me want to let out an almighty weary sigh.

    Think about where you go on holidays, weekends, day trips and the reason you visit those places – those same reasons should apply when considering the future of your home town.

    I am dismayed by comments such as those from avatar, who seemingly is trying to imply that Sunderland ISN’T grim! Also having a giant bridge from the town centre to the coast is just baffling. It’s views like this, where the view is from the point of ‘how can I get around Shields in my car easier’, or, ‘cramming as much retail space into one area surely has to mean more money’ where it’s starting to go wrong. We need to think of the bigger picture. People moving to Shields to live, people visiting, businesses coming to rent space. All this equals money – long-term money. The only way to get this though is to turn Shields into a varied and interesting place, full of culture and diversity, issues which are far from being purely the domain of property and retail development. The trouble is, property and commercial development can have such a huge impact on the way people use the town, live in the town, and the way non-residents view the town that it needs to be executed with surgical precision.

    South Shields is in a paradoxical location – sited at the entrance of a major river, for all to see when they visit the north east of the UK by sea, yet as inaccessible as you can get. To visit here, if you’re not a resident, you have to have a major reason for coming here and I can tell you now that a ropey spin off of The Viking Centre isn’t going to cut it.

    The very fact we are sited where we are, where people flying into Newcastle Airport can look down at us, that to people arriving into the Tyne by sea we are the first sign of life for the whole of the UK, this should force us into making a dramatic signal, become a flag flyer for the whole of the North East. What’s the best we can do? Turn a failing pub into a betting shop. It honestly makes me sick.


    May 12, 2012 at 1:02 pm

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