Swindon Outlet, a Derelict Railway Building
Let me make my priorities very clear. Shopping bores me. On the rare occasions I buy clothing, I get in, select, get out quick. I have been known to buy the wrong size, and had to return, receipt in hand, and then try in the fitting room before eventually leaving with the correct dimension.
So for me to actually recommend a shopping mall is not just exceptional and rare, it’s never occurred previously.
In Swindon, there was this vast derelict Great Western Railway complex. It had been in a sorry state for some years, and no-one knew what to do with it, until McArthurGlen decided to add to its ever growing number of retail outlets.
They have done a superb job, converting the complex of Victorian buildings into a 90 retail unit with vast car park. Signposting very good, it is easy to enter the parking area. We visited on a mid-January Saturday with sales still on, arriving late morning, and there were plenty of parking spaces.
When inside, you walk round a huge square. The ceilings are high, as you would expect from old railway sheds, and units are all roughly the same basic size. The clothing shops tend to have been utilised better, with display better organised. The worst was stationer and bookseller The Works, very cramped with as much crammed in as possible.
Marks and Spencer, Austin Reed, Calvin Klein, Levi’s, all have clothing shops, Jigsaw, Next, Crew Clothing, these are for children, there are five accommodating sports and outdoor, plus many shops catering for footwear, luggage, jewellery, and home and gifts.
I liked the Thorntons shop, because they had large boxes of chocolates at half price, ideal for gifts. We had croissant and cake at Patisserie Valerie. Very pleasant sitting among the palms, watching the world go by.
It was comfortable to stroll around during my visit, yes there were lots of people, but they somehow seemed to be comfortably swallowed up, unless you were purchasing food. The train had no difficulty keeping to its course, people just got out of its way. Plenty of areas to sit and watch the shoppers go by, and there was a vast play area for children. Didn’t want my motives misconstrued by asking too many questions, so have no idea if it was free, or supervised. If you want to know, you will have to ask yourself.
I understand from seasoned shoppers that these outlets sell items that are not usually available in their high street stores. Some of the clothing designs are different, and the prices are considerably less than what you would expect to pay elsewhere. The price comparison is more applicable with discounted ranges.
We spent close on four hours there. This surprised me, not being a natural visitor to malls. They didn’t have Top Shop, Evans, Dorothy Perkins, Boots, W.H. Smith, phone shops, electrical retailers, perhaps that is a deliberate McArthurGlen policy. Maybe some of the other 20 retail outlets they run accommodate these shoppers.
What did I buy? Nothing. But Pam bought me an M&S jumper for £12, not sold in their usual stores. Fortunately I am on a diet so it will fit in a month’s time.