CROYDON IN CRISIS: The departure of one of the shopping centre’s ever-presents will only reinforce the feeling of decay and decline in the town centre
Sainsbury’s has confirmed that the final day of trading for its Whitgift Centre store will be on Sunday, October 15, ending an association with the shopping mall that goes back more than half a century.
The Whitgift Centre is in seemingly irreversible decline, with dozens of empty units, scaffolding dotted throughout the mall and the floors peppered with buckets to deal with its leaking roof whenever it rains.
The exit of Sainsbury’s, which has been an ever-present at the Croydon centre since 1969, is feared may be followed by other major traders.
Sainsbury’s, the country’s second-largest chain of supermarkets, confirmed in June Inside Croydon’s exclusive report that it is to close its Whitgift Centre store.
The confirmed closure date of the Sainsbury’s store comes a few weeks later than originally suggested, following what the business called a regular “review of our property estate” and based on “a range of factors”.
When the Whitgift Centre’s Sainsbury’s opened 54 years ago, it was the chain’s biggest supermarket in the country.
But the Whitgift Centre has been blighted by more than a decade of neglect and uncertainty over future development plans from Westfield, who were brought into Croydon in 2012 by landowners, the Whitgift Foundation.
Westfield have produced two separate planning applications for a chunk of the town centre that includes the Whitgift Centre and Centrale, Croydon’s second shopping centre, on the other side of North End.
The second, £1.4billion version of Westfield’s scheme was passed following a public inquiry conducted by the Planning Inspector, and saw Croydon Council, as the local planning authority, invest huge amounts of time, money and reputational capital in delivering a Compulsory Purchase Order for the developers that has never been actioned.
After the two schemes stalled, Westfield more recently bought out Centrale owners Hammerson. They have also been fined £5million by the council for their slow progress.
There have been other costs, too: the Whitgift Foundation has seen the value of its property investment portfolio fall by almost £11million between 2021 and 2022, which, according to their latest set of accounts “is due to the decline in value of commercial properties including the Whitgift Shopping Centre”.
Rents from the Foundation’s properties have also slumped, down by £4.4million from £5.6million in 2021 to £1.2million in 2022.
Such plunging revenues have seen the Whitgift Foundation announce the closure of one of its fee-paying schools.
Westfield has promised to draw up a “masterplan” for the area (another one), before the end of this year.
But for existing traders, such as Sainsbury’s, the run-down Whitgift Centre has become an off-putting place for potential customers, and footfall has failed to recover since the covid pandemic.
As iC reported in June, a large part of Sainsbury’s decision is based on their bottom-line: they have five of their “Local” stores within a mile or so of the Whitgift Centre, all of which offer customers convenience store opening times, but at higher prices.
Sainsbury’s described their decision to close their Whitgift Centre store as “difficult”.
“We understand this will be an unsettling time for those affected and we are supporting them in every way we can. This includes exploring alternative roles for colleagues within Sainsbury’s.
“Customers will continue to be able to shop with us at a number of nearby Sainsbury’s stores, including our West Croydon Station Local, George Streel Local and Croydon High Street Local stores.
“The decision to close a store is never taken lightly.”
- Inside Croydon – as seen on TV! – has been delivering local community news since 2010. 3million page views per year in 2020, 2021 and 2022.
- If you want real journalism, actually based in the borough, you should consider paying for it. Please sign up today. Click here for more details
- If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, or want to publicise your residents’ association or business, or if you have a local event to promote, please email us with full details at email@example.com
- As featured on Google News Showcase
- We offer FREE ads to community groups when they have members who are paid subscribers to Inside Croydon
- Our comments section on every report provides all readers with an immediate “right of reply” on all our content
- Inside Croydon is a member of the Independent Community News Network
- Inside Croydon works together with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, as well as BBC London News and ITV London
- ROTTEN BOROUGH AWARDS: Croydon was named among the country’s rottenest boroughs for a SIXTH successive year in 2022 in the annual round-up of civic cock-ups in Private Eye magazine