“THIS town, is coming like a ghost town, Can’t go on no more, the people getting angry.” 

These lyrics to The Specials 1981 number one hit echo the mood of many readers this week who sent us letters, emails and web comments on the issue of shop closures. 

Some used the phrase “ghost town” to warn about the impact a decision by Argos owner Sainsbury’s to close some catalogue shops will have of towns such as Darlington and Bishop Auckland.

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Traders fear it will have a devastating impact on footfall and some shoppers believe it is the latest sign that small town centres have had their day as retail destinations.

Is this an over-reaction? Can a move by one retailer scupper the efforts of shops and councils to create a buzz that convinces us it’s worth venturing into town - and incurring parking charges - rather than travelling to shopping parks and malls? After all, catalogue retailer Argos isn’t abandoning Bishop, Darlington and other towns in the north altogether but shifting standalone stores into nearby supermarket branches. 

It will nevertheless be missed. Argos isn’t just a place to buy everything from toys to toasters but it’s also a parcel pick-up point which attracts large numbers of people into town, some of whom go on to visit other shops in the area. Furthermore, it follows the closure of town centre branches by  TK Maxx, BHS, Beales and McDonald’s, so there is a definite trend emerging.

But predictions of ghost towns across our region are an overreaction and symptomatic of people too eager to dwell on the negatives while ignoring recent investments in bars, restaurants and leisure facilities. 

Things are changing but there is still a lot to enjoy in our town centres.