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Lowry Outlet Mall Reviewed

L'Oréal Blackett joins the Quay's stragglers and strays to shop the discount outlet

Written by . Published on July 17th 2014.

Lowry Outlet Mall Reviewed

IF YOU stand at a vantage point and squint, the visitors to Salford Quays almost resemble the iconic figures painted by LS Lowry.

Stooped elderly couples look out at the waterside, mothers drag their tantruming toddlers and hurrying BBC workers in trench coats pace across the landscape – it’s Lowry’s ‘A Street Scene’ live and in motion. Sort-of.

Unfortunately, a deal on vitamins at Holland & Barretts or a one-stop shop for Tefal kitchenwares doesn’t titillate me enough to return regularly.

Of course, Salford Quays boasts two structures named in homage to the Stretford-born painter. One is the impressive purpose built Lowry arts complex and the other is The Lowry Outlet Mall - mainly known for discounted brands and an unnecessarily large number of shops selling bed sheets and scented candles.

It's safe to say, that most people don’t come to Salford Quays to shop at the Lowry Outlet Mall.

Despite being at the docklands for thirteen years, it appears visits to the shopping centre are mainly a result of wandering aimlessly out of the Lowry Theatre after a performance, or finding yourself without anything else to do after a trip to the Imperial War Museum North. It’s a fast food pit stop with shops for people with motives that probably include visiting the nearby MediaCityUK or gawping over the Ship Canal to spot the new Coronation Street set.

Dsc_0155Food Court Lowry Outlet

The Lowry Outlet doesn’t bustle with regular customers, instead the complex takes in the Quay's infrequent stragglers and strays.

Not that there’s anything glaringly wrong with The Lowry Outlet Mall.

In fact, on the face of it the large building is ideally situated on the docklands. There’s improved transport links with a bus and Metrolink outside and on-site parking. Plus, the general Quays area is picturesque enough to inspire anyone’s return.

Dsc_0194The views on Salford Quays

Inside, it has the main ingredients for any large scale centre; a clean food court, clothes shops selling smocks for the bored and retired and a small cinema to turf the kids in during the summer holidays. There’s also a Harvester and a large Nandos in the food plaza.

Dsc_0184Nandos outside

But it’s peaceful – veering towards rest-in-peaceful at the outlet. On a weekday afternoon, a muffled Toni Braxton warbles Unbreak My Heart over the centre radio and people move at a gentle pace to the sound of her moans.

The Lowry Outlet Mall is slow, mellow and easy like it’s Sunday morning every-day.

Dsc_0157The Lowry Outlet Mall is not short of candles

Dsc_0023Mainstream retailers

The blame for the lack of bustle is left with largely uninspiring retailers. Unfortunately, a deal on vitamins at Holland & Barretts or a one-stop shop for Tefal kitchenwares doesn’t titillate me enough to return regularly.

Still, there are covetable bargains.

Flannels boast big name designers at the Lowry Outlet's promised 70% discount prices. I yelped as I found Christian Louboutin heels price-slashed to £230 from £600. There's a Gap, Molton Brown and a Body Shop all selling goods for much less than on Market Street. Plus the centre's Cadbury's store is a cute treat. Regardless, after filling my boots with chocolate bars the excitement slowly dissipated.

“I overheard a shopper say she couldn’t kill two hours here,” said a staff member in clothes store Krisp. “I think the Lowry could benefit from a chemist, Boots, Superdrug - even a post office ”

She added: “It used to have more of a family feel, where yummy mummies would shop with their kids - but it doesn’t feel as family orientated anymore.”

Dsc_0165Discounts upon discounts

Following the question whether there are busier periods at the Outlet, I cued a synchronised shaking of heads from the staff at The Sweet Emporium.

“We’ve been here for four years – I wouldn’t say there’s been an increase in footfall,” said one staff member. “From a shopper's point of view, I like the quiet atmosphere at the Lowry, yet from a business stance there’s a need for greater footfall.”

Dsc_0158The Sweet Emporium 

The quiet in the outlet mall is somewhat surprising given that its close neighbour is multi-million pound powerhouse MediaCityUK. Owned and developed by The Peel Group, it’s a formidable shiny brute on the waterside that promised to bring in bigger crowds. Incidentally, since 2012 The Lowry is now owned by The Peel Group.

The company made no secret that it wanted The Lowry as part of its ever growing portfolio at the former Salford Docks. After selling the majority share in The Trafford Centre, it wanted to put the Lowry Outlet Mall on the shopping radar.

And according to them there’s been customer growth.

In 2013 Peel recorded a 6% increase in footfall and total sales figures were up 8.1% for the year.

Dsc_0178MediaCityUK nearby

Peel believes it's all down to the new freshly relocated BBC faces, who became permanent fixtures to Salford Quays in 2010.

 “We’ve not seen an increase in people shopping since the BBC has come over. They come mainly to eat in the food court - not really shop,” said one team mate at The Sweet Emporioum.

Another added: “There needs to be more advertising. There’s a lot of promotion about the general area as part of MediaCityUK but the Lowry Outlet needs its own spotlight to get more people here. It has its quiet periods, when we worry no one is coming into the centre at all.”

With The Trafford Centre and Manchester Arndale within easy reach from The Lowry Outlet, it’s no surprise that on the weekdays it lacks a similar atmosphere. The location is in a nowhere land and there arn't enough shops to give it critical mass. The Trafford Centre opens until 10pm on a weekday, whereas the Lowry Outlet stores have an early bedtime of 6pm. 

Dsc_0025Stores are closed by 6pm

That’s not to say The Lowry Outlet doesn't add to the reasons for visiting The Quays.

One image proved that over the afternoon of our visit.

Graduates from The University of Salford were celebrating in front of the Lowry Theatre and spilled out onto The Lowry Outlet's steps to throw their caps and embrace family members. Most had packed into the Outlet's bars (Lime Bar, Craft Beers) on what was a picture perfect sunny day. With MediaCityUK filling its restaurants, there was a beaming glimmer of life on the waterside. 

After a few celebratory tipples some of the graduates had even wandered tipsily into the centre to buy gifts.

But those occasions are few and far between. Peel have their work cut out to make this awkwardly sited mall work. You go because you're at the Quays not because of a desperate retail need. Can Peel ever make the shopping centre a real shopping destination? Given its location and competition it seems unlikely.

The editor says the centre was built because Salford Council were worried the Lowry Centre with its theatres wasn't enough of an attraction to keep people in the area. Then the Imperial War Museum North opened followed by MediaCityUK. 

Perhaps they were a little premature.

Still, if you're lucky you might pick up a bargain Loubotin, some scented candles, cheap sweets and even Black & Decker drills. 

Find out more about The Lowry Outlet Mall 

Salford Quays

The Quays

Opening hours: 10am - 6pm 

Follow @LOreal_B on Twitter. 

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28 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

SAZKJuly 17th 2014.

When did you visit?? The Nike store closed quite a while ago. One of the few shops I actually used to shop at!

1 Response: Reply To This...
mancadamJuly 17th 2014.

i'm pretty sure it shut nearly a year ago...

Cj ThompsonJuly 17th 2014.

You forgot to mention that you have to pay for car parking, unlike most other outlets and the Trafford Centre, where car parking is free. They do stamp your car parking ticket if you spend over a certain amount, but for me, I'd just as soon to go Cheshire Oak or The Trafford Centre where I can park for free regardless of whether I decide to buy something or not. Also Marks and Spencer furniture outlet often has some good bargains but I wouldn't pay for car parking on the off chance they might have something I want.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
NickNameJuly 17th 2014.

How much does it cost to drive to Cheshire Oaks and back?

goaterJuly 20th 2014.

You only need to spend a fiver, roughly the price of a cake and coffe at Costa. Tight a*se.

Cj ThompsonJuly 17th 2014.

Depends where you live and there is a far wider choice there so more likely to find something you want. Just meant I'd be more likely to drop into The Lowry Outlet Mall more often if parking was free or you only had to spend a nominal amount to get free car parking like it used to be.

AnonymousJuly 17th 2014.

I love it. Mulberry handbags at less than Selfridges? YES PLEASE!!! Parking is free if you spend more than a fiver (which is two coffees). Most shopping centres are quiet during the week unless its holidays.

AnonymousJuly 17th 2014.

SMALL cinema?? Is one of the bigger ones in Greater Manchester area....

AnonymousJuly 17th 2014.

I work in this centre and totally disagree!! We are a very busy store and we always have customers in!! In fact some days we even beat our arndale counterparts!! Our sales are up out footfall is up and people DO come to shop. We may not have the best array of shops for an outlet but I'm sure that will come. And as for parking it is free! Yes you have to spend £5 which is easily done but this is to stop the near by office workers taking up your car park spaces for your visits!! I don't know when you wrote this too but the Nike store relocated nearly a year ago so your facts are quite out of date. People should definatly come for a day out to the outlet. It's a great place to walk around and take in the beautiful sights of mediacityuk

quaydwellerJuly 18th 2014.

I live on the Quays and don't visit the outlet mall (the name itself is bad enough) because it's so awful. Dull, lifeless, full of stuff hardly anyone wants and the eating choices are vile (I must be the only person in the country who can't see the point of Nandos). They should get better more varied shops in there and some higher end bars and restaurants (or at least some better chains) and make it a destination place - drag people from the Traff. The area still needs more eating and drinking places - the Dockyard is okay, but it could do with some competition.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
SAZKJuly 18th 2014.

This is spot on. And it needed Nandos like a hole in the head, but the sad thing is it will probably be quite busy

Peter CoppingJuly 20th 2014.

Oh dear the wrong sort of people again.

Peter CoppingJuly 20th 2014.

Did Ms Oreal Blackett actually visit the place as not only are there ghostly retailers but her geography seems a little odd too? Can't see ManCon getting any ads or offers if this is piece is the best they and Ms Blackett can do for the businesses. But the fault lies probably with Peel who need to get a first class retail development company to manage the total retail offer on both sites now they have no direct interest on the Trafford Centre. As ranters have said the area should be a 'destination' The BBC can then have a soap called 'Shopping City'

Andrew JonesJuly 18th 2014.

Up there with the most soul-destroying places in the world I reckon, and an utterly bizarre neighbour to the lowry theatre, IWM and media city. Either do an outlet mall properly like Cheshire Oaks or get rid. Can you imagine an interested bbc exec wondering in on his/her first day after being transferred up here? Fcking embarrassing.

AnonymousJuly 18th 2014.

An M&S without a food court is simply a wasted opportunity. Local snobbery and increased demand will see a change in the type of retail units in there eventually, give it time.

AnonymousJuly 18th 2014.

many years ago Lands End had an outlet in the Lowry . They seem to have upped their game in the recent past and it would be great to get them back in. Flannels is a great pull but they don;t really advertise much and then places like Roman Originals and pavers change the profile again. A Gap outlet might help. the profile seems all wrong. Having been to the Bicester village outlet where people stay in hotels to make a day of spending small fortunes on rubbish and then to Cheshire Oaks the Lowry must be able to attract other true outlets. the Jaeger outlet in Altrincham closed down ; get them to the Lowry.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJuly 18th 2014.

There is a gap outlet!

AnonymousJuly 18th 2014.

It's just a horrible building inside and out and takes no advantage of it's location. An outdoor centre like the Rock in Bury or a small Liverpool One would have been much better in this location and would be able to compete with Trafford on nicer days. Too late though.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJuly 18th 2014.

Have a cry about it.

AnonymousJuly 18th 2014.

The centre was much more vibrant when it first opened. There was the likes of Mexx, Karen Millen and Whistles in there. It has slowly died a death over the last few years in my opinion. I had hoped that Peel taking things over would reinvigorate it but so far this hasn't happened. Such a shame.

1 Response: Reply To This...
LesleyJuly 23rd 2014.

Totally agree re Whistles disappearance from Lowry Outlet. It was a class store with great staff.

AnonymousJuly 18th 2014.

Maybe you should have visited when the Waterside market was on – the specialised stalls are attracting a regular ‘up-market’ customer base, with their artisan food and craft products. Still, why kill a good ‘doom and gloom’ story? As previous commentators have suggested, lazy and unreliable journalism.

jacJuly 20th 2014.

The Lowry Outlet makes no effort to maximise trade. Shops close early , often pulling shutters down 20 min before closin time so theatre goers cant spend an hour or so beforehand shopping. Staff are largely disinterested n prices in Holl n Barrett  are not discounted - same as high street. By far the biggest issue is the relentless greed of the parking management. Oulets have free parking thats the pay off for a journey out to it. This car park has just changed and increased its prices prices again. U cud get 6 hrs free if you ate time to shop n eat , now u get 4 it seems very grabbing. The outlet advertises that it is at Media City but no media city cafes etc are included in parking scheme . I love the Lowry Theatre but they need to participate in the parking scheme - dont mention the pre theatre parking its a con for unknowing visitors , and if u r only there for 3 hrs for a show its more expensive than just paying on exit - another bit of sharp practice. Why is that ok?

Dave SmithJuly 23rd 2014.

Someone suggested it needed more time - its been open 10 years already! I am amazed the shops can stay viable, as everytime I visit - its deadly quiet. It should compete with the Trafford and Arndale by being a proper 'discount outlet' destination aka Cheshire Oaks - the way they do that is have strict rules about selling 50% of stock (say - i don't know the exact formula) below 50% retail, so its full of genuine bargains - thats what drives the repeat traffic. Parking is a non issue for me - of course they have to 'charge and refund' to avoid the locals using it all up - there is not enough parking for the apartments across the lock, never mind the office workers. Full marks for the artisan food market though, great to see that grow in size and be a success. Whilst I'm on a roll, for years I have thought the opposite side of the canal there is the rarely used wide 'promenade' or esplanade running from the footbridge down to the swing bridge - and I often think this would be great use as a market or even car boot sale on a Sunday, or even a something ambitious like the wonderful Riverside Night Market they run on the Tiber in Rome - a great night out, run on a much smaller promenade alongside the river. This would be great use of a space that has cost us £millions and is hardly used. Salford council events manager - theres an idea for free for you. ;-)

TimetoshineJuly 23rd 2014.

This is the only "Outlet Mall/ Village" that's generally more expensive than the brand's shops. I don't want to go somewhere and hope for a bargain on the off chance, I want to get good value each visit.

AnonymousJuly 23rd 2014.

A horrible place, lifeless, bland bunker of a building and a complete waste of a fantastic location. A massive failure of planning and architecture by Emerson / Orbit and Salford City Council.

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