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The Trafford Centre, Greater Manchester, UK

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The Trafford centre is an out of town 'experience' in the North West region of England. It is one of the biggest shopping centres of its type in the UK, although it would probably seem small in comparison to American malls.

A Brief History

The Trafford centre opened in September 1998 and it has always had its fair share of controversy. Before it was built there was much concern that the then known 'Dumplington Centre' would have a negative effect on town centres throughout the region1. However, this was largely forgotten as their well-orchestrated media campaign prior to the big opening distracted people's attention away from more contentious issues. However, controversy emerged again, as there was growing serious concern about gridlock on the North West's motorways caused by people trying to visit the new centre all at once.

The next most serious controversy to strike the centre was the tragic loss of a six-year-old's life while playing with other children around a stage area. Naturally this created a lot of negative publicity. Recently a case has come to trial over this incident, resulting in fines for the Trafford Centre.

First You Need to Get There

This can be achieved most easily by car or by public transport.

By Car

You can reach it from junctions 9 or 10 of the M60 - it's well signed. There are literally thousands of parking places, so you shouldn't find that you've made the journey in vain.

Something to note, however, is where your car is and which entrance you used to enter the Trafford Centre building, as searching for your car among 10,000 is not a fun thing to do.

By Bus

There are bus links from Manchester and Stockport town centres as well as other places in the area. Buses are approximately at fifteen-minute intervals from Manchester and Stockport during the day.

Something to note here is that some of the bus routes finish early in comparison with the centre's opening times, so it is wise to make absolutely sure of what time the last bus is. Another thing to note is that the bus station is located at one extreme end of the centre and it can take a good fifteen minutes to dash from one end to the other, especially when the centre is busy.

By Metrolink

There are plans afoot to extend the Metrolink route out all the way to the Trafford centre. In the meantime it is possible to get the Metrolink to Stretford where there is a shuttle service provided to the centre.

Then You'll Want to Start Shopping

The Trafford centre makes it very easy to part with a large amount of money very quickly. There are lots of shops at the Trafford centre, ranging from the shops you see on every high street to small specialist shops and also a Selfridges, one of the few outside London2.

At the Trafford Centre, what you see is what you get. Space is at a premium so that if what you want isn't in sight it probably isn't in stock either. If you're after shops that can be found in a local town centre, the Trafford Centre can prove a little disappointing because many high street names carry a more limited range than normal. However, there are many shops that you don't see in local town centres, most notably Selfridges, but also H&M, which doesn't have very many stores in the UK.

Selfridges in itself should be a 'shopping world', but there is not space for that at the Trafford centre, so many argue that the shop doesn't work. However, the many other shops at the Trafford centre make up for it, although they are all on the expensive side, even the small 'market' style stalls in the Festival Village area.

The quietest time to shop is weekday mornings, at around 10.15am, just after they have opened. It can be very crowded on weekends and especially during school holidays.

Now Relax for Some Entertainment

The Trafford centre has a range of entertainment on offer. There are many restaurants and cafés - a popular choice being the Rainforest Café, a restaurant with a rainforest theme. If you just want a quick coffee or a big meal you'll probably find somewhere to suit. There is also the 20-screen cinema, as well as various events that take place throughout the week. Again, prices are expensive, and especially so at the cinema. The advantage is that you'll probably find a film on that you won't find in other places, which can be worth the extra price.

1The jury is probably still out on whether or not the Trafford centre has taken trade away from shops in town centres, although Manchester's Arndale centre has recently been lobbying for longer opening hours to compete. 2The others are in Birmingham and in Manchester City.

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