The Mayor of South Tyneside, Councillor Ernest Gibson recently went walkabout in South Shields town centre to speak with shop owners during the busy festive season.
The Mayor spent over two hours popping into a host of businesses to have an informal chat and catch up. He managed to visit 54 shop units in total from a cross section of retail businesses along King Street, Fowler Street and Waterloo Square.
The Mayor, said: "Local retailers play a major part in our daily lives, whether it's for residents doing their weekly shop or tourists on a day trip from outside of the Borough. I wanted to personally thank shop owners for making South Shields a great place to be, and the hard work that they put into the whole retail experience.
"These are exciting times for everybody associated with the area, as South Shields 365 town centre vision is providing a wonderful framework to be implemented over the coming years. This will bring amazing investment, retail and social opportunities for businesses, residents and visitors.
"I wished everyone I met a very Merry Christmas and a happy New Year for 2014."
One person to meet the Mayor was Sue Taylor, manager of Dicksons pork shop on King Street. She said: "I thought it was a lovely personal touch for the Mayor to individually speak to businesses in the town centre. I've only been manager for a few months, and I've never heard of a Mayor going to such lengths within the local community."
Councillor Gibson also popped into Greenwoods Menswear and chatted to Jack Coxon, assistant manager. Jack said: "We had a good conversation about a number of things including local business issues and the new parking redemption scheme. The Mayor asked how we were doing, as he pops in from time to time for a chat.
"I also put over the point how we all have to try hard to get shoppers to stay buying local, and not have to go outside of South Shields for their purchases."
The Mayor stopped by at Aldermans Coffee House for a quick cuppa tea and spoke with co-owner, Ewan Murray and the Mayoress Patricia Ridley - who works at the coffee house as a chef.
Ewen Murray, said "I think it was an excellent idea for the Mayor to visit shop owners, as it's a great way for him to see what's happening in the town centre, and to take the pulse of the commercial sector. It has been encouraging to see all of the work and imagination the Council has done in coming up with initiatives to bring people into the town centre, like the Christmas procession and the Christmas card trail.
"We have experienced a really good festive season and fingers crossed for the New Year."
Assistant store manager of Vision Express, Hollie White, said: "It was good to see the Mayor showing an interest in the town, and taking his time to speak to the people who serve South Shields in the local shops and businesses."
The Mayor has also spent time visiting shops across the Borough including parts of Boldon, Jarrow and Whitburn to speak with business owners.