Thursday, 14 May 2009

West Quay Undercover Southampton

Advantages: Great if you like the same old same old

Disadvantages: Too hot in the winter - it just aint the traditional High Street.

I don't like shopping centres! They take the heart out of a city or town. I used to much prefer the traditional High Street, mainly because there was a much better mix of shops. What shopping centres have acheived is to keep the big names aloft (they can afford the rents) and the closure of small and more interesting independents. 

But, anyway, life goes on and culture evolves. 

Your shopping experience in Southampton is likely to revolve around West Quay, because you are more than likely going to park in one of the adjoined car parks. Parking is 'affordable' and it is generally easy to park EXCEPT on a Saturday - don't even think about shopping in Southampton on a Saturday, the roads into town are busy and then finding a parking space is a nightmare.

If you park in the car park which is within the centre, you are a short escalator ride to the shops. If you park in the car park immediately adjacent, you either cross the road and go through the on-site car park or go for a long walk round to the front entrance. Alternatively on the upper floors of this car park is a windy bridge connecting you to the shopping centre. 

Once inside the centre you are obviously sheltered from the elements, but it is really hot in there in the winter, if you are already togged up, you will probably need to take a few layers off - you could leave them in the car, but of course if you want to leave the centre for the few remaining High St shops in Southampton, you will need to traipse back to the car for your coat gloves etc. Some would say the extra heat in the winter is a clever ploy to get you to stay in the centre. 

As for the shops, expect the usual same predictable High Street big names. Accesorize, Aldo (not Aldi, which would be a good addition), Build a Bear Workshop, Curry's which I avoid like the proverbial plague, there is an Apple shop for the nerdy fashion victims, Dorothy Perkins, John Lewis sells a good range of both affordable household products as well as some more expensive quality ranges. There is an H&M which caters for men and boys (some only do girls clothes). Waterstones for readers, although personally I rarely use this as I always buy books second-hand on ebid. There is a Julian Graves for sweeties, nuts and stuff like that. I won't bore you with a full list of shops, but there is a good range of about 100 or so outlets. 

The layout of the place is somewhat irritating. There are three shopping/eating floors. The bottom floor is entered on foot from behind the main street, the next floor up is can be entered from the actual high street. The top floor is the eating area, which has a good variety of eating places, but all are generally centred around the same big names: McDonalds, KFC, Harry Ramsdens Costa... Getting from floor to floor is a pain - the centre is built around a big round balcony, which you need to walk all the way round to get to either the stair, escalator or lift. Again this ensures you have maximum exposure to each shop. 

This shopping centre or 'mall' as they have become known is clean, well run and soul-less. If you like shopping malls it is great. I prefer the good old rain soaked, cold high street. 

The alternatives in Southampton: Three, yes THREE, other shopping centres- The Marlands, The Bargate and East Street. And the actual East street itself. All these shopping centres are looking a little run down in varying degrees, especially East Street Centre which is practically empty. East Street, the street itself, has smaller, independent shops, and includes a smattering of charity shops. 

My rating for West Quay is with a sensible reviewer head on, though personally I would prefer these shops to be along the High Streets.

Summary: Great as far as shopping malls go.

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