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The first indoor shopping centre to open in the UK was Brent Cross back in 1976. Soon afterwards, it became clear that the concept of indoor shopping centres could be a success in the UK, mainly thanks to the later opening hours of the shops compared to the traditional High street stores.
The popularity of large, indoor shopping centres has continued to grow ever since; the combination of weatherproof shopping with everything in one place including entertainment has proven to be a recipe for success with shoppers.
Here, we look at the 5 biggest indoor shopping centres in the UK:
The Metrocentre in Gateshead was first opened in 1986 and 25 years later it still holds the title of Europe’s biggest shopping centre. With around 190,000 square metres in retail floor space and even more space at the adjoining retail park, it impressively houses over 340 retailers.
The Metrocentre has five malls and three themed areas, with most of the major high street chains such as New Look, Next, River Island and Topshop having branches here. In 1988, Metroland opened, Europe’s largest indoor theme park. It remained open until 2008, when it was replaced by the Qube, an entertainment area including an Imax cinema and bowling alley.
The construction of the Metrocentre was financed by the Church Commissioners of England and they still hold a ten percent stake, which is evident in the Metrocentre being one of the few shopping centres in Europe with its own chapel and full time chaplain.
The Trafford Centre shopping mall was completed in 1998 after a very long planning process due to objections from local residents. It is the second largest shopping centre in the UK with 177,000 square metres of retail space, over 10,000 parking spaces and 6 anchor stores that include John Lewis and the first Selfridges outside of London.
The Trafford Centre has 30 million visitors each year and boasts Europe’s biggest food court, the Orient. The Odeon cinema is the UK’s busiest, with nearly 29,000 visitors each week. These high numbers are partly due to the location as 10 percent of the UK population live less than a 45 minute drive away.
Visitors from further afield may wish to stay over for the night at one of the many hotels in Manchester. There’s a Premier Inn hotel which was previously known as the Tulip Inn which literally faces the Trafford Centre making it a popular option for those wanting to stay near the mall.
In 2008, Barton Square was added to the existing centre, providing an extra 19,000 square metres of retail space which houses mainly big homeware stores such as Next Home, Laura Ashley and Habitat. There are also an extra 630 parking spaces and space for future expansion.
The third largest shopping centre in the UK at 167,000 square metres of retail space, Bluewater is one of the newer shopping centres having being opened in 1999. It has 330 stores, 3 anchor tenants and space for 13,000 cars and 50 buses. The anchor stores at Bluewater are John Lewis, House of Fraser and Marks and Spencer.
Bluewater introduced a code of conduct in 2005; swearing, face obscuring clothing and large groups with no intention of shopping were all banned which resulted in a mixed reaction. The number of visitors however remained the same with Bluewater still serving around 27 million customers each year.
At the time it was built in an old chalk quarry, Bluewater was the largest shopping centre in the UK and having been granted permission to build a two storey events venue and expand the south side of the centre, it will soon be back in the running for the top spot.
Merry Hill has 154,000 square metres of retail space and 4 anchor tenants; Debenhams, Marks and Spencer, Primark and BHS. It has parking for 10,000 cars and an adjacent marina area beside the Dudley canal, with lots of bars and restaurants.
The original construction faced opposition as the developers took advantage of a relaxing in planning laws intended to bring in manufacturing companies and built a shopping centre instead. They also began building on a green space that was locally known for its wildlife, rather than the adjacent old steelworks site.
Many retailers moved from surrounding towns into the Merry Hill shopping centre, including Marks and Spencer, H&M and Littlewoods. It was also the site of the first free standing Pizza Hut and the first drive through McDonalds in 1986. Next, Gap, Topshop, River Island, Boots, Schuh and the Disney Store are among the 300 plus stores at Merry Hill.
Located in Shepherds Bush next to the famous London hotel that is the Hilton Kensington, this shopping centre is 150,000 square metres of retail space with 270 units and parking for 4,500 cars. It is spaced over 5 floors and was the 3rd largest shopping centre in the UK at the time of its opening in 2008. It was built on a large brownfield site that formerly held the White City’ Franco-British Exhibition
Westfield has about 255 stores, including Debehams, French Connection, House of Fraser, HMV, Next, Boots, River Island and a multiplex cinema. It also has a high end area called the Village, which houses brands such as De Beers, Versace, Gucci and Tiffany & Co.
Written by the team at travelsupermarket.com
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