Some observations from visiting MetroCentre today

MetroCentre logo on empty unit

MetroCentre logo on empty unit

I popped over to MetroCentre this afternoon, and spotted a few things that seemed worthy of blogging about.

Millets: Following on from my post last week about Blacks Leisure announcing plans to shut 89 loss-making branches, I noticed that the MetroCentre Millets store is already having a closing down sale. However, the nearby Blacks store looks like it’s safe.

I’m yet to come across a list of the stores being closed (there is nothing, as far as I can see, attached to the official announcement), but I imagine that a good few will be in those locations where Blacks and Millets are competing with each other. To be honest, I’ve always struggled to understand what the difference between the two is supposed to be.

Woolworths: MetroCentre’s vast size – there are 330 stores – means that it has suffered from having a larger than usual number of nationally defunct retailers. Rosebys, Zavvi, The Pier, the Original Shoe Company and, inevitably, Woolworths were among the prominent voids that I spotted today.

Former Woolworths at MetroCentre

Former Woolworths at MetroCentre

Woolworths took over the old two-level C&A unit at MetroCentre in 2000, following that retailer’s decision to move out of the UK. However, there’s no sign as yet of anyone coming in to take Woolworths’ place. I struggle, in fact, to think of a retailer that might want to occupy it. Most of the potential tenants for a unit this size – Bhs, Primark, perhaps New Look – are already represented at MetroCentre, while other possibles, such as Wilkinson, don’t seem to make a habit of opening stores in large regional shopping centres. Any thoughts, anyone?

Waterstone’s: MetroCentre’s Waterstone’s illustrates the point that I made here about retailers not bothering to upgrade certain stores within their estate. Not only does the store’s frontage still feature the old, upper case logo, but its apostrophe appears to have fallen off (credit where it’s due, however, for Waterstone’s including the apostrophe in its name in the first place  – most retailers would have got rid of it long ago).

Inside it’s a similar story, with rather worn carpets and a sad looking store directory – the kind that has certain categories covered up with card, and other ones stuck on afterwards (I spotted a similar design crime in WHSmith). Surely it can’t be that hard to come up with a store directory format that is able to accommodate retailers moving stock around from floor to floor?

On the plus side, the store did have the book I wanted, and the person who served me at the till was friendly and helpful – always one of Waterstone’s strengths, in my view. Still, applying a bit of TLC to the store itself definitely wouldn’t go amiss.

HMV: Over in Waterstone’s sister store, HMV, the shop looked generally better but the customer service was less satisfactory. The first hurdle to buying something was getting around a display bin of blank CDs, pointlessly positioned directly in front of the counter. Second, I didn’t really appreciate the glaring downlighter, set above the counter, that was seemingly designed to blind (and cook) any customer that approached. Third – and most irritatingly – the person who served me spent the entire duration of the transaction continuing her conversation with a colleague, despite my best efforts to engage in friendly eye contact.

This habit of taking the customer’s money but otherwise ignoring them is one of my biggest pet hates when shopping, and HMV is by no means the only culprit. I did, at least, get a “see you later” – however, if that’s the level of customer service I can expect, seeing me later is probably unlikely.

5 Responses to “Some observations from visiting MetroCentre today”

  1. Soult's Retail View» Blog Archive » Newcastle’s Millets among the 89 stores to be closed said:

    Oct 06, 09 at 20:28

    [...] I commented on the fact that the Millets store at MetroCentre was having a closing down sale; today, I noticed [...]

  2. Soult's Retail View» Blog Archive » Photo gallery: more former Woolies around the UK (part 1) said:

    Oct 13, 09 at 20:44

    [...] Stockton-on-Tees, Hartlepool and Gateshead – all taken on 17 September – or the shot I used last week of the empty MetroCentre [...]

  3. Soult's Retail View» Blog Archive » Joint TK Maxx and HomeSense store to open at MetroCentre in ‘late September’ said:

    May 23, 10 at 11:31

    [...] opening emerged back in October, it was reported that TK Maxx would be taking over the two-storey former Woolworths unit - an assumption that seemed to make good sense. It turns out, however, that this is not the case: [...]

  4. Sean said:

    Jul 25, 11 at 15:40

    Primark is set to open a large store on the old Woolworths site

  5. Graham Soult said:

    Jul 25, 11 at 17:56

    I know! There’s a more recent blog about it ;)


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