Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

For Sale or Let - a Once Thriving Seaside Town; It Is Estimated That One in 10 Retail Units Currently Stand Empty on High Streets across the Region, with Figures on the Rise Almost Daily. ZOE BURN Visited the North High Street Determined to Weather the Storm - despite an Alarming Rise in Empty Shops

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

For Sale or Let - a Once Thriving Seaside Town; It Is Estimated That One in 10 Retail Units Currently Stand Empty on High Streets across the Region, with Figures on the Rise Almost Daily. ZOE BURN Visited the North High Street Determined to Weather the Storm - despite an Alarming Rise in Empty Shops

Article excerpt

Byline: ZOE BURN

IT WAS once a bustling high street and thriving seaside resort. But now almost 30 premises stand empty, windows are boarded up and For Sale and To Let signs are becoming more commonplace.

It's a far cry from Whitley Bay's heyday, and as outlets like Woolworths and M&S are forced to close their doors, more and more smaller premises are falling victim to the recession.

Once a popular shopping area with many local butchers, bakers, grocers and other similar retailers, the streets are now flanked by charity shops, estate agents, banks, cafes and a couple of small supermarkets.

A walk through Whitley Bay reveals 28 empty shops - ranging from national chains to independent retailers - are among the businesses still attracting customers.

Woolworth's is joined by Leveys, Cartridge World, Callers Pegasus and Sports Direct as large firms which have shut up-shop with the premises now lying empty.

Meanwhile, smaller retailers include three household furnishing outlets, two pet shops, a kitchen centre, two mobile phone shops, two butchers and various clothes shops.

Woolworth's departure in December came as a hammer-blow to the town, followed just weeks later by the news that M&S was to axe its Simply Food store in the Park View Shopping Mall along with another 26 nationwide.

Last month, Eric Lewis, owner of the 129 Coffee Shop in Park View, launched a petition to save it, attracting more than 2,000 signatures in just over a week.

But it wasn't enough, and last week M&S announced the closure was to go ahead as planned.

So could this be severejy damaging for Whitley Bay? Eric hopes not, although there is no mistaking the concern in his voice.

"It is bad news. It wasn't what we'd wanted but right now we need to be thinking about the future," he said.

"People here desperately didn't want M&S to close. We've already lost Woolies and now this. It was our worst fear.

"But the good thing from our point of view is the strength of the public here in Whitley Bay.

'There is a great sense of community spirit and people continue to come here to shop.

"As Jong as people are still coming in, there's still a hope that the town can turn itself around. …

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