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Having a Merry Old Time!
Merry Hill Shopping Centre (Birmingham)
Member Name: chrisandmark
Merry Hill Shopping Centre (Birmingham)
Advantages: Fabulous shops, a good range of places to grab a bite to eat, lovely surroundings and the car park!
Disadvantages: Gets very busy on Saturdays - 10,000 parking spaces, most taken, at least 2 people per car.....
This afternoon I fancied some retail therapy, and being nearly 5 months pregnant I thought I'd pop to Merry Hill in the Black Country to stock up on some baby goodies. Now, for this kind of stuff I'd usually head straight into Birmingham City Centre but I decided to use Merry Hill for the simple reason that all the stores are in one place with no traipsing around different streets looking for the shop you're after.
The Merry Hill Centre contains over 200 different stores so obviously I'm not going to spend time discussing the merits of each one, rather I'll concentrate on the ones I visited today and tell you about the shopping centre as a whole.
The inside of the centre itself is absolutely gorgeous and has the feel of an upmarket shopping mall; the water features, benches and greenery displayed give an almost outdoors feeling despite the fact that from the moment you enter Merry Hill you're inside. It's amazingly light and airy in the Centre considering how much is packed into one building, with much of this being accomplished by the clever use of lots of marble, glass and brass incorporated into the décor. It really is a lovely relaxing place to do a bit of shopping, and actually makes spending my (partners!) hard earned money seem more of a pleasure than a chore.
The first place I hit today was Mothercare as this particular branch seems to have a lot of special offers and sale items; this is just the same as a high street branch, being well laid out and very easy to navigate between baby stuff, maternity wear and clothing for older children. Prices are on a par with other stores, although as I said a moment ago they do tend to have a much better sale selection than my other most local store. I bought loads of baby clothes today in this huge store, most of which were drastically reduced in price, and really enjoyed the time I spent browsing in here.
Then it was up a level to Boots. Boots is by far my favourite shop in the whole world, so I was pleased to see Merry Hills branch is absolutely massive. As with other Boots stores it's extremely easy to find your way around and stocks just about everything you could want to buy for your bathroom shelves, and much more. The prices in here seemed ever so slightly cheaper than my local Boots but this is probably due to the fact that everything I wanted to buy seemed to be on BOGOF or reduced in the special 'sale' section of the store.
I also used todays visit to stock up on toiletries from some of the various health and beauty stores in Merry Hill. I was surprised and thrilled to find a Lush tucked away near the large Marks and Spencer – until now I'd thought my very closest Lush was all the way inside the City Centre and only really accessible by a rather annoying bus route! It's quite a small branch but seems to stock everything found in other Lush stores, albeit in slightly smaller quantities. Likewise The Body Shop and BodyCare are smaller stores than I'm used to but, again, everything is well stocked and laid out in such a manner as to make the best possible use of space.
I visited loads of different shops today during my visit and managed to buy exactly what I wanted. The range of shops in Merry Hill is absolutely amazing; just about every store you'd want to find on the high street is here, as well as a few you wouldn't expect to see inside such a shopping centre. It's possible to do your weekly shop here as Asda, Sainsburys and Marks and Spencer all have large supermarkets dotted around the site, perhaps not quite as large as stand alone supermarkets but definitely big enough for you to be able to do a good shop. There are also a few banks at strategic places within the Centre which offer a full branch service during normal banking hours and provide ATM machines both inside and out.
As far as clothes shops go, the choice of stores in Merry Hill is brilliant and they cater to everyone. The Next store is particularly good; it's a large shop which has all the latest styles as per any other Next branch and some items are considerably cheaper than it's store in the City Centre thanks to an excellent range of clearance items which are sometimes up to half price. Both JJB and JD Sports have two branches inside Merry Hill, as well as an excellent branch of Blacks which makes the Centre ideal should you be out shopping for the perfect pair of trainers or a good quality and reasonably priced tracksuit. There's also a range of other clothing stores including Jacques Vert, Bon Marche, Monsoon and the ever popular Ann Summers along with Burtons and Top Man for the guys.
You can even get your hair done at Merry Hill in an excellent Toni & Guy salon. It's not often I can justify Toni & Guy prices when I have naturally straight almost waist length hair as I don't have an actual 'style', and it's just too expensive to have a premium colour in this kind of salon when your hair comes under the 'ultra long' category. So I get a warm tingly feeling whenever I spot a small poster in the window of this branch telling passers by that a trainee is in need of a model. I've never seen this in other Toni & Guy branches and it's honestly worth the travel for me from Birmingham to the Black Country just to save £50 on a quality cut and colour – last time the trainee did absolutely NONE of the work so for a bargain 30 quid I had a fully trained hairdresser work wonders on my hair while a 16 year old wearing terrible make up simply watched!
When you've finished shopping I reckon you'll want something to eat, or a drink at the very least. JD Wetherspoon will take care of a post shopping craving for brandy, or you can go to the licensed Pizza Hut for a drink and a meal – try to arrive for the lunchtime buffet where you can eat as much pizza, hot breadsticks and salad as you like for just £4.49! Bargain! For a lighter lunch there's a Subway restaurant and for the full cholesterol whammy there's the option of fish & chips in Harry Ramsdens. None of the Merry Hill eateries are overpriced compared to their high street counterparts, which is unusual in a shopping centre such as this – particularly for the Starbucks branch who I find can be erratic with their pricing depending on where you shop.
Located within the Merry Hill complex, although slightly apart from the Centre itself is a large Odeon cinema which has 9 (I think!) screens and is open from 1pm until 12am. There's plenty of parking around the cinema even when the shopping centre is busy and it sometimes worth coming to this Odeon rather than the one in Birmingham purely for its sensible and free parking facilities.
Merry Hills shopping hours vary from store to store, although the Centre itself is generally open from 8am – 9pm and 10.30am – 5pm on Sundays. I love the fact that Merry Hill stays open so late as I can plan my shopping days around the kids' school and activities; the extended opening hours over Christmas were an absolute life saver as I managed to get all the presents with no kids around to pester me!
Access for wheelchair users is excellent as the Centre is very open plan and has implemented all the sensible mobility aids; ramps instead of stairs, wide doorways, wide lifts to every floor, masses of blue badge parking and scrupulously clean and accessible disabled toilets. Likewise parents with babies are well catered for with changing facilities, a free nappy in one of the supermarket changing rooms and a pot of baby food in the Asda café if you're eating yourself.
The best way to visit Merry Hill is by car. Simple as that, you'll come out with so many carrier bags that the bus probably won't be an option so you might as well drive unless you feel like forking out for a taxi all the way home. It's not far from Junction 2 of the M5 and is well worth a trip down the motorway for those of you who live further away than me. I'm in Birmingham and the journey time for me is around 30 minutes but my sister who lives in Northampton has, on occasion, travelled the 70 or so miles just to visit Merry Hill – it honestly is that good! Of course, if you're coming from a distance away you could always have a trip to Dudley Zoo or the Black Country Museum and top it off with an end of day splurge in the shops.
Anyway, from Junction 2 take the roundabout exit for Dudley and follow the A4123 New Birmingham Road. From here it's a case of following the brown tourist signs to Merry Hill; it's a simple route to follow and well signed to bring you in the correct direction for entering the car park. And boy, what a car park. Merry Hill are so proud of it they actually ran a TV ad extolling the virtues of a 10,000 car capacity car park – you'll ALWAYS find a space, and it's free!
Public transport users are well catered for, as Merry Hill has a small bus station just outside one of the entrances. Absolutely loads of buses come here from Birmingham, Dudley, Stourbridge and most other large areas within the Black Country. There are honestly always a tonne of buses parked up in the station so you won't have to wait long wherever you're going, on the three occasions I've visited by bus I've never had to wait more than five minutes for my bus home to arrive which is better than most general routes!
Merry Hill Shopping Centre
Tel: 01384 481141 (Customer Enquiry line)
Summary: Even my shopping-hating fella likes this place - and they have Lush!