Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from goo.gl/Ta4oAX.
Published September 21st 2013
Which is Croydon's Best Shopping Centre?
Inside Centrale Shopping Centre
Most towns are quite happy to make do with one shopping centre, but not Croydon. They have three. It is not like they are at opposite ends of town either. They are all right next door to one another on the same street. Over kill? Perhaps, but they all offer different things. The question is, which is the best?
Centrale Shopping Centre
With it bright yellow entrance way, Centrale stands out more than any other building on North End. The signature feature of this shopping centre is its two large department stores, House of Fraser and Debenhams.
The House of Fraser stocks top designer brands such as Chanel, Estee Lauder, Prada, and Max Mara, while at Debenhams you will find more affordable high street names like Oasis.
Remedy to stress.
There are also a few independent shops like Evolution, which sell some really charming gifts. One that I thought was particularly sweet was a wooden photo frame made to look like a window with swing doors. I also had to giggle at some of their humorous door signs. Evolution is owned by a Buddhist charity, and they pride themselves in ethical trading.
Centrale also has a number of cafes, and a large open seating space on their first floor, where you can eat takeaways or do some work.
Whitgift Shopping Centre
The Whitgift Centre is the biggest of the three. It is named after John Whitgift, who was Archbishop of Canterbury between 1583-1604, and played a big role in helping the citizens of Croydon.
Unlike Centrale, which has its focus on departments stores, Whitgift has a bit of everything: shabby to chic, and bargains to luxury. The first shop I popped into was Poundland, where you really do get value for money. It is a general store where literally everything is a pound. Here you can top on your grocery shopping, buy gardening and cooking equipment, and find media entertainment like DVDs and CDs. The best deals I saw were for bags of dried fruit. Usually one pound would get you about 100g or less, but here, there was a 500g bag of dates. Another great offer was a packet of ten AA batteries. In other shops, you wouldn't get a pack of four for that.
Opposite Poundland was a shop called Blue Lizard. From the outside it looked like a high quality gift shop, but once inside, you discover the quality is only skin deep. For example, there was a figure of a dragon that looked like it was standing on a large gemstone, built turned out to be plastic.
Another bargain shop is The Works, a discount bookshop that also sells arts supplies, toys, and games. One of the best deals I found in here was a set of thirteen paint brushes for £1.99, and a set of watercolour paints for £2.99. Although The Works have adult fiction, they specialise mostly in children's activity books. If you want more choice, Whitgift also has a Waterstones.
Best known for selling of Lego and Playmobil, Toy Barnhaus specialises in toys for pre-school children. They also have boardgames like Scrabble Junior, puzzles, costumes, and soft toys. I always thought Toy Barnhaus was a German company, with an English translation of 'Toy Warehouse', but it actually turns out that it is an independent chain company based in Surrey, and the named after the founders, Mark Buschhaus and Stephen Barnes.
There are many clothing retailers including H&M, River Island, and Superdry, which is an urban fashion brand that uses Japanese, American, and British design.
Feeling peckish? There's no end of takeaways at Whitgift. For sweet treats, check out Millie's Cookies, and for savoury you can try Tashi Sushi or the Chinese Bakery.
Croydon Village Outlet
The Village Outlet is the newest shopping centre in Croydon. In fact, it only had its grand opening on the 19th September 2013. I had planned on going, but the bad weather put me off, so I went the next day instead.
The Village Outlet is where you want to go for big brands with small prices. You can get up to 75% off RRP on fashion here. Most of the time anyway. When I arrived at the front doors, I was faced with a sign that said 'due to overwhelming demand, we have had to close.' Come again? I was not the only one to raise an eyebrow at this. What exactly did they mean? Overwhelming demand for the shop to close? Overwhelming demand that means they ran out of stock? Overwhelming demand that the staff were worked off their feet? It was all very ambiguous, and not exactly promising considering they had only been there one day.
Greenhill Food Hall
Although the main store was closed, it was by no means a wasted trip; the Village Outlet also has a food hall, which has a range of world foods including sushi, pasta, curry, cakes, and bread. These can be eaten in or taken away.
My eyes were immediately drawn to Le Perron, a bakery from the Netherlands. Le Perron specialise in artisan breads, and you can see the bakers at work behind the stall with their own 'bread theatre'. They make all type of bread, such as spelt, malted, rye, and many more. I seriously considered buying their gorgeous £6 tomato loaf, and only passed up because I came across another bakery. Coughlan's bread looked almost as delectable, but was at a price even lower than you'd get at the supermarket. Thad had large flatbreads on offer at two for £3, so I bought a tomato & basil, as well as a cheese & jalapeno. Coughlan also do cakes and pastries, and did a good deal on jam doughnuts, which were four for £2.50.
Harry Potter Cake
If you are planning a party, Coughlan also do special occasion cakes, which you can have customised, or made entirely to your own specifications.
Cheshire Cheese Company
When I was at the Village Outlet, I was pleased to find the Cheshire Cheese Company. I'm a member of their club, and had a voucher for a free cheese truckle. They had free samples to try, which I was pleased about because the truckle I was planning on getting, I turned out not to like. I swapped smoky tomato for Cheddar Tequila, and can't wait to have it on toast. The Cheshire Cheese Company also sell gourmet popcorn, crisps, chutney, and cider.
After going round all three shopping centres, I think I like Whitgift the best because it has the most variety. If you prefer to do your shopping all in one place, however, Centrale's department stores are a winner. As for the newbie, I'm yet to determine its quality as a shopping centre, but as a place to eat, it can't be beat.
Whitgift is nothing like it was lots of vacant premises I assume because of the redevelopment The replacement for Allders is hopeless at present Croydon is a mess If they get the redevelopment it could be a great town again
Hi, I went to try the Chinese eat as much as you like, for 4 pounds 50p, and I can honestly say, it was rubbish!!! A lot of the concessions have left and maybe the other eateries are good. I haven't tried them. What also put me off was 1 of the 2 females serving, kept bashing the tongs in her hand, as though she wanted me to hurry up. I was very disappointed and will NOT be going again.