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A Big Waste of Space!
Clacton Factory Outlet (Clacton-on-Sea, Essex)
Member Name: mummy2harry
Clacton Factory Outlet (Clacton-on-Sea, Essex)
Advantages: A few good shops, some good discounts
Disadvantages: Most shops empty, looks a bit old and tatty, a failure
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.
Summary: A disappointing retail outlet in Essex
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