“ Address: Stephenson Road West / Clacton-on-Sea / CO15 4TL / England „
I just wanted to update the two previous reviews as they are quite a bit out of date now. I work in the industrial estate just up the road from the shopping village, and can say that the previous reviews were spot on - the only time I used to go there was to Thorntons at Easter time! However, the centre is under new management and a major refurbishment is under way. There is now a Marks and Spencer/per Una concession, as well as Staccato/Pavers footwear (aka shoe heaven!!). There is a burger king, and yamyam to go fast food takeaway. Thorntons,
claires accessories, pilot, petroleum, oak. Last month planning permission was given for a 6 screen multiplex cinema (already prelet apparently) and restaurant complex. Clacton shopping village is definately getting busier, and I for one am really happy that it's being improved along the lines of Freeport in braintree!
When residents of Clacton on Sea heard of a Clacton Factory Shopping Village opening in the outskirts of their town, there was a mixed review. As I was a young teen at the time, my reaction was 'what's the point, I can't get there'. My mum's reaction was 'yippee, more clothes shops'. But nearly all of the rest just thought it'd be another waste of money that would be a 2 second wonder. And how right they were.
Residents of Clacton and surrounding areas have another name for the Clacton Common Shopping Village now... Ghost Town. And it literally is. How the shops keep afloat there, I'll never understand. The last time I went was a few months ago, and it was only to go and see my friend who works there. I couldn't no more than 5 people in the whole complex.
Right, for those who don't know what it is, I'll inform you. I'll call it CCSV (Clacton Common Shopping Village or Clacton Factory Outlet) for ease. It was built quite a few years ago now, on a large site in the industrial area of Clacton, where there is lots of factories and warehouses. Not a typical place for a shopping centre, but I assume they were trying to be like Braintree Freeport, built in a similar location not near the town centre.
I reckon there started out about 35 shops in the complex. Mostly female clothes shops, but with also a few men's shops, luggage/bag shops, a sweet shop, a few cafes, the 'Banana Bookshop' which is a cheap and cheerful creative arts shop, a sports shop and a few 'pretending to be designer but not' shops, that flogged cheap 'designer' clothes.
It was built in a horse shoe shape with entrances/exits at both ends so it was actually laid out fairly well, as you can walk from one end to the other without having to double-back on yourself to get back to the car park.
In the centre is a fairly large children's area, with a pirate ship made of wood, climbing apparatus/monkey bars and so on. Shortly after in this area they also built a life-size chess/draughts set.
In the first couple of years, the CCSV went down fairly well. I went there quite often as my mum enjoyed going there, and the Banana Bookshop really entertained me as it was full of cheap junk but also some creative arty bits and lots of books. The sweet shop always had a promise of a bag of jelly babies too, if I could persuade my mum enough. Although the shops always had exactly the same stuff in, quite a few people still went there regularly.
There was a card shop on the complex that sold very cheap cards too, and the Bed and Bath shop attracted quite a large audience.
But somehow, this all felt like a novelty.
And true to this, another couple of years on, the Village became Ghost Town. Hardly anyone goes there because, whilst it sells cheap stuff, it's not cheap enough to qualify a big trip out there. Everything purchaseable in the CCSV can be easily brought in a cheapo shop in town, or in Tescos.
After the massive financial fall the country experienced at the beginning of the year of 2009, a load of shops in the Village unfortunately had to close, leaving it even more like a Ghost Town.
When this fact was in sight, someone immediately took up the offer of buying half of the over-sized car park and building an ice rink on it. I have no idea if this has had any success or whether it's even open yet, but I've not heard of any marketing/advertising for it so I assume that has gone bust too.
I can't say all bad things about the Village. It was a fun novelty whilst it was popular. And when it was busy, there was a nice atmosphere, almost like a whole community was built as all the shop staff were friendly and seemed to know each other, as I suppose quite a lot of them probably met up for lunch in one of the two cafes available.
Perhaps now the worst of this horrible climate is over the CCSV might stand strong and build so that it can become better. I think better management might help liven the place up, and a few more attractions other than some fairly cheap shops and a kids play area.
Quite a lot of holidaymakers read about this Village when planning their trips, but I beg you, please don't come down to Clacton just to visit this complex! Whilst there isn't really that many nice things to do in Clacton, there are some, but don't let this be the deal breaker! :P
Although I now live in Berkshire, I was born and grew up in Clacton-on-Sea, which is a small seaside town in the county of Essex. It's very popular with holiday makers in the summers because of lots of caravan parks and its Amusements arcades and the pier, but its also a nice, quiet town to have grown up in. The town has recently been trying to give itself a makeover, and this really started back in 1998 with the building of its first "shopping village", which was originally called Clacton Common. It's since undergone quite a few name changes and is now settled on Clacton Factory Outlet.
The outlet is located out of town, just past Great Clacton and adjacent to an industrial estate. It is well posted from Colchester which is the next big town, and also signposted through Clacton too so it should be easy to find. It is an outside set shopping area, which encompasses many different sized shops that are supposed to cater for all sorts of selling opportunities. There have also been French markets, and Christmas fayres in the history of the outlet too, trying to lure the customers in. However, it hasn't really been successful and less than a third of the shops are currently occupied, and it is a bit of a ghost town which is a real shame.
Most of the shops that have survived are classic shops you would expect would be popular to all. There is a Thorntons outlet, which offers proper Thorntons products but at cheaper prices, I believe it's around 30% cheaper than the high street. There is a JD Sports too which has some reductions although not on all products. Some of the sportswear such as trainers aren't always the modern designs but they are a lot cheaper so its good if you want a pair for just around the house or something. There is a Claire's Accessories too, again offering 30% off the marked price on everything and this is always quite packed. Other shops include Banana Bookshop, Choice (like Next Clearance), Petroleum, Leading Labels (men and women's fashion), Bags Etc., Suits You which also has a Youngs Suit Hire inside and Julian Graves. A full list of the small amount of shops still there is available to view on the website.
I remember when the outlet opened, it was quite popular and looked to be a really good idea. All the units were filled, and you could get everything from clothes to toys to food and homewares too. I have picked up some bargains in the past, but a lot of the shops I used to go to have now closed down because the traffic through the centre is really poor. It looked very fresh, with a U shaped layout so you could easily walk from one end to the other easily and there was also a dedicated food area with a large children's play area too which is still there, although many food outlets are also shut because of limited customers.
You can see from all the new signs and logos going up that they are trying to really redesign the whole perception of the place and bring new footfall into the area, but I don't know how well it is working. My mum says when she goes up there, it's always empty and she hates the atmosphere up there. Only a few of the shops are ever worth visiting, and the rest are clearly on their way out, with hardly any merchandise on the shop floor. It's sad that such a good idea has really not taken off, but because the tourist season is only for a few months of the year, they suffer for the rest when locals tend to go afield to Colchester and Ipswich to visit bigger name stores.
I was shocked when I visited in February 2009 because it was so empty. The enormous car park only had about 30 cars in it, in the middle of the day, and this looked really poor. When I went through the underpass to get there, the first third was boarded off because they are carrying out improvements but it didn't give the place a very good look. It made it look decrepid and old, and I don't know what they are planning to do to an already failing business centre. Walking through, the pitiful amount of shops weren't busy either, and we looked at times like the only customers there. Some of the shops were boasting large discounts on item just to drag the customers in, and it seemed very dismal. None of the shop assistants look happy and were talking amongst themselves as if they weren't expecting any customers at all. It was a very pitiful shopping experience, and I felt like I just wanted to leave which didn't feel good.
For me, it was a surprise to see the place in such a bad state and not at all busy because I remember it being very popular when it first started, especially when they had visitng markets and fayres. It is a shame that the local people don't shop there, but it is unsurprising given the poor choice of shops there at the moment. The outlet didn't look like it had changed much in 11 years, which says a lot for the upkeep but they are doing work on it now so I will be interested to go back and see how they are doing. If you are in the area it might be worth a visit for some shops such as Choice for Next clothes, Thorntons for cheap chocs and Claire's but thats all I can recommend there. Not highly recommended at all, and a real disappointing failure for Clacton.
The address of the outlet is Stephenson Road West, Clacton on Sea, CO15 4TL. You can telephone for information on 01255 479595, and the website is on http://www.clactonfactoryoutlet.com/. Car parking is free with 1000(!) parking spaces and its accessible using the local bus service from town too.
Monday-Saturday: 10am - 6pm
Sunday: 11am - 5pm
Thank you for reading.
A major shopping village built in 1998.