With almost 46 million UK adults planning to buy Christmas presents this year, shopping centres across the country are bound to be busy over the festive season.
Brits are expected to spend a total of £27.6 billion on treating friends and loved ones to the perfect gift. So, if you’re ready to clock up the miles for the right present, where can you enjoy the best shopping experience in the lead-up to this year’s celebrations?
We've taken a look at shopping centres across the UK to find the best options for a Christmas shopping trip, focusing on the size of the shopping centre, the number of parking spaces, parking fees, and the number of stores and restaurants.
The top 10 shopping centres to visit this Christmas:
Bluewater (Greenhithe, Kent)
Metrocentre (Gateshead, Tyne and Wear)
Lakeside Shopping Centre (Thurrock, Essex)
Trafford Centre (Trafford, Greater Manchester)
Merry Hill (Dudley, West Midlands)
Westfield London (Shepherd’s Bush, London)
Westfield Stratford City (Stratford, London)
Braehead (Renfrew, Renfrewshire)
centre:mk (Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire)
The best shopping centres for your Christmas shopping
If you fancy a trip to the UK’s best shopping centre this Christmas, take a cruise to Kent – the home of Bluewater Shopping Centre.
Sam Sheehan, our motoring editor here at cinch, said: “To crown this year’s best shopping centre, we analysed the 20 largest across the country.
“Based on our findings, the ideal shopping centre for your Christmas wish list is Bluewater, located in the small Kent village of Greenhithe.
“Bluewater hosts an impressive 13,000 parking spaces, making it the country’s shopping centre with the most generous car park. No matter how packed it gets, you’ll always find a free parking spot for your diesel or electric car.
“But if Bluewater is a bit out of the way, Meadowhall in Sheffield and the Metrocentre in Gateshead are great options, too. Sitting in second and third position respectively, they’re a couple of great options for shoppers in the north of England.”
Size of a shopping centre
The busiest in-store shopping day of the year is, on average, 23 December.
While the pre-Christmas buzz inside shopping centres is exciting, it can all get a bit much. To avoid being too squashed as you hop from one shop to the next, Westfield Shopping Centre in Shepherd’s Bush (London) is the place to be.
As the largest shopping complex in the country, the Shepherd’s Bush centre extends over 2.4 million square feet - meaning plenty of space to roam and explore, despite the crowds.
Westfield in Stratford is another great option for London shoppers. Measuring about 1.9 million square feet, it’s the third-largest shopping centre in the UK, just behind Gateshead’s Metrocentre (2 million square feet circa).
Number of parking spaces
During the festive season, finding a parking spot can be tricky. Luckily, not all shopping centres will leave you driving around in circles.
As well as topping our overall leaderboard, Bluewater takes the title of the shopping centre with the most parking spaces available, with a capacity of 13,000 vehicles.
Meadowhall in Sheffield also deserves a special mention, featuring a whopping 12,000 parking bays. It’s followed closely by Lakeside Shopping Centre in Thurrock (Essex), where you'll find 11,857 spots.
Another driver-friendly shopping centre is the Trafford Centre in Greater Manchester. With about 11,500 parking spaces, you shouldn’t have trouble finding a free spot.
Parking charges can set you back a few quid, and while it might not seem much at first, it’s an unwanted addition to your costly Christmas shopping bill.
Sam explained: “To determine the parking fees of each shopping centre, we looked at car park prices based on stays between 12pm and 4pm.
“The good news is that, out of the 20 shopping centres we’ve analysed, seven offer free parking. These include Bluewater (Greenhithe), Meadowhall (Sheffield), Lakeside Shopping Centre (Thurrock), Trafford Centre (Trafford), Metrocentre (Gateshead), Merry Hill (Dudley) and Braehead (Renfrew).
“St James Quarter in Edinburgh has a pricey tariff of £14 for a four-hour stay, making it the shopping centre with the most expensive car park on our list. Visiting Liverpool One and Manchester Arndale are also costly, charging customers £12.50 and £12.20 respectively.”
Number of stores and restaurants
Unsure about what to buy your friends and loved ones? More shops means more inspirational ideas, and if you can grab a snack to recharge your shopping battery, even better.
When it comes to stores and restaurants, there’s no beating the Westfield shopping centres in London. The Shepherd’s Bush location is home to an impressive 391 shops and eateries, while its sister complex in Stratford hosts 301.
If you’d rather avoid the London traffic, you’ll be spoilt for choice in Meadowhall and Bluewater, which both host 267 stores and restaurants.
St James Quarter in Edinburgh (94) and Cabot Circus in Bristol (110) are the shopping centres with the least variety in terms of shops and eateries. If you know exactly what you’re after, however, you’ll no doubt find the perfect gift to put under the Christmas tree.
So, how does your local shopping complex compare to other shopping centres across the UK? From available parking spaces to the number of shops and restaurants, there’s a lot to consider when deciding where to drive to for your festive shopping.