Croydon shopping experience has really gone downhill, say consumers

By Harrison Galliven, Local Democracy Reporter

Croydon shoppers say they would rather go to Bromley or Redhill and that the town has ‘lost its sparkle’ despite the announcement of new shops set for Whitgift and Centrale.

While news of the 12 new shops at the town’s two shopping centres offers a glimmer of hope, many fear retail in the area is ‘dead’ and needs much more than just a few new shops.

The focus of many shoppers’ concerns is aimed at the town’s famous Whitgift shopping centre. The iconic 1960s build, which was recently featured in the film All of us Strangers, was a popular shopping destination for many in South London and east Surrey for decades.

However, according to Croydon’s shoppers, the Whitgift feels a long way from its glory days. Some believe the centre is showing its age and needs vital care to remain viable.

Boarded up shops and closing down sales testify to those concerns.

NHS worker Don said: “How many people can you see in shops here now? maybe one or two people. It needs a lot of improvement, but it depends on what the council wants.

Sign of the times at Croydon (Picture: Facundo Arrizabalaga)

“Do they want it to keep ticking along until a new government comes or put money into it now? I just feel sorry for the residents, and I’m glad I don’t live in Croydon.

“When you come through here the first thing you can see is the buckets on the floor to catch the leaks from the ceiling.

“They’ve got to mend the roof here and make it more aesthetically pleasing. However, It seems they don’t want to do this because they think it’s going to be knocked down soon and they don’t want to spend the money.”

The news that owner Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (URW) plans to bring 12 new shops, which include Deichmann, Chopstixx and jeweller Loupe, has been hailed by some as the start of Croydon’s retail regeneration.

Mayor Jason Perry echoed this sentiment in an emphatic post on his own X account, saying: “After years in the doldrums, is Croydon finally back on the retail map? The answer is yes.”

In his official response, he said: “We welcome these signings by new and existing retailers at Centrale & Whitgift and the local organisations taking up the opportunity to support the Croydon community from this key town centre location.

“This is an exciting time for Croydon and, working with Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, we’re driving forward the regeneration of our town centre.”

However, Westfield’s much-anticipated investment into the area has become a sore spot for many, who first heard of the retail giant’s plans to develop the site over 10 years ago but have since seen little progress.

The drip, drip effect of degradation : Buckets are needed to collect water from a leaky roof (Picture: Facundo Arrizabalaga)

Shoppers were promised a new £1.5 billion Westfield shopping centre in place of Whitgift, but those plans were dropped in 2019.

One shopper, Terri-Lee, said: “All of the Westfield plans they’ve had just seem to be on hold. It seems like they’ve just packed up and left and it’s gone quiet now.”

Crime has also had a part to play in Croydon’s growing undesirability as a shopping destination, according to shoppers. Croydon’s North End, which hosts its main shopping district, has become notorious as a crime hotspot.

Shopper Marissa, an out of town visitor, said: “I was quite shocked when we went into Greggs and saw security for the first time.”

A Croydon council spokesman said: “Regenerating Croydon town centre is a top priority for the Executive Mayor of Croydon.

“A huge amount of work is under way to drive this forward, boost investment in our town centre and make it a cleaner, safer place for all.

“URW has shown clear commitment to Croydon through their decision to buy out local partners Hammerson, and the mayor and council are working closely with them to bring forward new proposals for the regeneration and redevelopment of Centrale and Whitgift.

“Meanwhile the council is working with a range of partners to make Croydon cleaner and safer, through new initiatives like the Public Spaces Protection Order, and improved street cleansing, waste management and enforcement.”

Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield was approached for comment.

Pictured top: Barbara from Kenley thinks Croydon has ‘lost its sparkle’ (Picture: Facundo Arrizabalaga)

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