'I prefer it to Oxford Street' and 'it's a ghost town' - 10 things you said about shopping in Sunderland city centre

Fawcett Street, in the heart of Sunderland city centre.
Fawcett Street, in the heart of Sunderland city centre.

Sunderland Echo readers responded in their dozens to accusations about the city centre's shopping experience.

Letter writer Bill Turnbull outlined access and parking problems as among the reasons why customers might choose elsewhere.

One Echo reader prefers Sunderland to London's busy Oxford Street, above.

One Echo reader prefers Sunderland to London's busy Oxford Street, above.

Our Facebook post linking to his views attracted varied responses.

While some blamed the rise of online shopping for the city centre's supposed decline, others pointed the finger at Sunderland City Council and claimed it is "desperate for income" through rising parking charges.

A minority, however, insisted they still like shopping in town with one ex-pat maintaining she even prefers it to London's fabled Oxford Street.

First to respond to our Facebook post was Chris Melville, who wrote: "It's a nightmare to drive into and get parked Yes, it costs too much to park as well compared with other locations.

"No I don't want to get a bus into town to solve this issue as that would turn a ten minute job into an hour or two."

Caroline Harrison added: "There's simply not the range of shops like there used to be.

"Another factor is that just because Sunderland isn't seen as an important enough city, the shops we do have never seem to get the same stock as the ones in Durham and Newcastle."

Clive Ketley said: "The council are desperate for income which they raise through parking charges.

"They don’t realise that making people pay for a second rate shopping experience just drives away those that try to be loyal.

"You can drive to Washington or Dalton Park, park for free do your shopping and drive home for the same cost without worrying about being 10 minutes over the parking meter time."

Also read: Sunderland Tories call for debate on the state of the city centre

Chris Parry believes the answer to Sunderland's problems may lie further north than Newcastle.

He wrote: Perhaps the council needs to visit Morpeth. Free parking, nice shops and major supermarket in centre. Always busy."

Sandra Johnson added: "Said it many a time. Try free parking for a few months in our poor town and see if there’s a change."

Michele Bywater, however, argued: "Well, I like Sunderland, love the old buildings, the parks going to the bridges and looking in the shops. Roker is great, there's always things to improve. The bus service is easy and you can get a bus to anywhere to and from."

Phil "Schmeichel" Smurthwaite wrote: "It’s a catch 22 situation, People aren’t spending in Sunderland so why would up-market stores open here if no one is going in?"

Brian Fulcher-Blige offered a potential solution to parking costs, writing: "I was in Sunderland on Friday afternoon after work. Parked in Hendon and walked up to the town. No parking fee to pay and a bit exercise too."

Yet Micheala Lloyd said simply: "Stop the online shopping, it's killing our retail shopping. The town is a ghost town."

Lesley Mfon also stuck up for Sunderland, saying: "I'm sick of people slagging the city off.

"If you don't like it leave.I haven't lived here since 1999 but still visit & I prefer it to shopping in Oxford Street in London and the choice is enough. People make a place not shops."