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March 11, 2022

Fake storefronts aim to revive depleted U.K. town

There are a myriad of ways to cope with the recession.

Some of us reel in spending. Others pay more attention to their investments. Or, there are the people like Nicolas Cage, who will do just about anything for a paycheque.

But how can an entire city put on a good face when it’s been ravaged by the downturn, an economic disaster that’s chased away vendors and left key business areas looking like ghost towns?

Well, if you’re like one U.K. borough, you fake it.

BBC News reports that North Tyneside, a hamlet just outside Newcastle, has taken to plastering fake storefronts over vacant retail spots in a bid to keep shopping areas “as vibrant as possible.”

According to the story, the town’s council bosses signed off on the idea as a cost-effective means to help attract new investment to the struggling region. The faux storefronts, which come in a variety of styles, are either taped or screwed into the empty store’s front windows.

“We need to ensure that the remaining businesses continue to survive and that means ensuring our high streets look attractive,” said the North Tyneside Council’s deputy mayor.

As crazy as it sounds, this little U.K. village might be onto something.

There are 140 empty shops in North Tyneside which, as the BBC suggests, are an eye sore dragging down the town’s image.

The government-funded fake storefronts are recyclable, reusable and cost only about $2,300 a pop. The first sham façade has “revived” its area of the retail district, and more empty shops in nearby regions have been greenlit for the same makeover.

So, if this apparently works in the U.K., would it succeed here, too?

Take a drive through any hard-hit town – like, say, Oshawa, Ont., where GM’s contraction has resulted in many abandoned storefronts – and you can begin to see where showing the world your retail potential has discernible value. What investors are going to be inspired by boarded-up windows and the faded signs of vendors past?

Could taxpayer cash in this regard be better used going to people without work? Maybe. That’d be a worthy cause, sure.

But where long-term growth is concerned, you’d have to say North Tyneside at least sees the big picture. And for foresight, if nothing else, you have to applaud them.

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...