WH Smith is latest Whitgift Centre store to shut up shop

Shutting up shop: WH Smith, on North End, is preparing to vacate the first floor of the store

Our retailing correspondent, MT WALLETTE, on the latest (partial) closure on Croydon’s already badly run-down High Street

WH Smith, one of the mainstays of the Whitgift Centre ever since it opened more than 50 years ago, is about to downsize its store in North End.

The newsagents, book shop and stationery store is preparing to shut down half its floor space by exiting the first-floor of its premises on North End early in the New Year.

It is the latest example, albeit partial, of the flight from Croydon town centre of major retailers, pubs and restaurants, that has been happening at a steady rate due to the development blight caused by landlords, the Whitgift Foundation, since they brought in Westfield with the promise of regeneration more than a decade ago.

In the past two years, John Lewis and, more recently, Waitrose, have both closed their Croydon outlets.

Marks and Spencer, who still have a flagship store in the Whitgift Centre, have been recruiting staff for an out-of-town shop on the Purley Way.

Clearance sale: the dimly-lit first-floor of WH Smith in Croydon yesterday

And even Wetherspoons have given up the ghost, announcing the closure of three of their pubs in Croydon.

A visit to WH Smith yesterday saw its upper floor marked up for a clearance sale.

The usual selection of diaries and calendars, ring-binders, pens and ink, paints and art equipment, notebooks and school supplies were looking badly depleted and run-down.

In one corner, a collection of buckets stood, ready for the next heavy rainfall to intrude into the store through its leaky roof.

As one loyal reader noted earlier this week, “I was in WH Smith before Christmas. It really is in a very sorry state.

Bucket shop: lack of proper maintenance and repairs has left the shop workers to deal with a leaky roof

“Many of the lights are not working, which gives it all a very gloomy feeling, I remember

“Maplin at West Croydon going the same way before they closed.

“There were a few people on the ground floor browsing the magazines and greetings cards. Upstairs there were just two other customers.

“I asked an assistant about this and he said that the upstairs will be closing after Christmas… All very sad and another nail in the coffin of the Whitgift Centre.”

Inside Croydon sought an official comment from WH Smith on their plans for the store, but had received no response by the time of publication.

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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7 Responses to WH Smith is latest Whitgift Centre store to shut up shop

  1. Lewis White says:

    Every time I pass by this building, with its beautiful Tudor inspired front, with its tall windows of leaded lights, and the craftsperson-made coats of arm badges , I really wish there were more like it, and yearn for a new medieval Croydon– without the dirt, and smoke, and typhoid, but with a bustling high street and side streets.

    Plus, on the Whitgift site, a renewed Croydon with decent new buildings and a mix of open air and under cover–not just the bland mall experience..

    As a former local government officer with 3 councils, over my career I worked in a number of buildings, some of which were huge HQ buildings, one located in a park a mile away from the town centre. As a result, at lunchtime, it was too far for the staff to pop into the town and have lunch or spend money in the shops. It was, frankly, a bit like a prison. The opposite was an office in a shop. A high street shop. I wondered why corporate employers should not take over the upstairs floors of shops like that, in a less-favoured part of the town centre, to bring the staff into town, and make it easy for them to help spend some of their money (paid to them by their employer– the public) in the town centre at lunch time.

    The barrier to the idea is, I suppose, fragmented ownership, and the ability of the structures to support all those hot desks and computer terminals. Plus, security– the benefit of an HQ building is that it has only one front door and a small number of back or side doors to keep secure. OK, my idea needs working on.

    How about keeping the interesting facades, and knocking down the buildings behind?.

    Well, that can be seen up in prosperous bits of London, but I have not seen it in Croydon.

    Or keeping the top floors as residential accommodation.

    My guess is that now, there are many very empty top floors, along the High Street and George Street and Crown hill, or very many squalid ones with really awful flats for rent.

    Inside Croydon provides a great service to Croydon in providing a space where planning– and controversial aspects of it in particular– is put under the spotlight.

    Sadly, I haven’t seen for the past 10 years, and don’t see much from the council now, to engage the local communitues in a real discussion about their areas, and the future. Nor–as you have recently pointed out- has there been much at all about the future of the Whitgift centre. The Council and Whitgift Foundation could have a public visioning exercise.

    Take over a number of empty units and have big models of the site as it is, as it was prior to the shoppping cemtre, and how it could be.

    Maybe 4 options for the latter. Designed by serious urban landscape designers and architects

    Plus “design your own own centre models” Come along, sign up and spend 3 hours positioning new tower blocks, shops, new streets and town square type open spaces, to create a renewed Whitgift.

    That’s a thought anyway.

  2. Molly says:

    Apologies for sounding negative but honestly Croydon is a slum of a shopping centre.Really sad to say this but no one seems to care about it’s appearance at all.Until the council ,Mayor & businesses come up with a proper workable but agreed plan more business will close !

  3. I loved W H Smith -Croydon has become a slum town – Shame on the Croydon Council – What are the Croydon Council going to do to fix it

  4. Anthony Miller says:

    I don’t know why the Whitgift Foundation aren’t in some kind of trouble legally with their appalling mismanagement of the Whitgift Centre…. Can the charity commission step in? Renting shop units with leaky ceilings is a new nadir. Nothing has been done to fix the main roof in years. I won’t be surprised if it falls in and kills someone. There are more buckets than people in the Whitgift Centre. None of the lifts work in the Allders NCP carpark. Only Poundland, the Continental Bar, Harry’s Bar and WH Smith are clinging onto the wreckage of the south end … But how long before the shop goes under the waves? Having deliberately run the place into the ground for Westfield they are now suck with a White Elephant… But surely someone must care that the revenue is drying up?

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