Many of the programmes and initiatives to regenerate deprived neighbourhoods appear to have had limited lasting impact. It has been argued that one reason for this is that we still have little real understanding of the nature and scale of the problems some communities face (Bernt, 2009). This article attempts to add to our knowledge through close study of an area with multiple problems and a history of failed regeneration attempts. An in-depth case study, undertaken to explore the current situation and future prospects of South Bank, a small neighbourhood in the North East of England, highlights transferable knowledge which may be applied to other regeneration areas. The analysis considers the nature and consequences of industrial decline; entrenched deprivation; the stigmatization of communities; the value of community consultation and the potential impact of retail-led regeneration. We question whether negative stigma attached to places can be changed and we ask what the future may hold for deprived communities now that public sector funding has largely dried up, and we consider an alternative approach: the potential impacts of private sector retail-led regeneration in the absence of public sector funding.