The shops in Southend might not have the cachet that London can offer the discerning shopper but they more than make up for that in variety. From markets chock-full of bargains to sophisticated designer outlets, there are plenty of places to get your retail therapy fix.
Shopping in Southend
Southend-on-Sea can boast two shopping centres which are not to be sniffed at. Slap bang in the middle of Southend High Street is the Royals Shopping Centre, which brings together 30 stores under one roof and has over 400 car parking spaces. The car park is handily open 24 hours a day and the centre also has three different cycle bays for those who prefer to use pedal power. And while we're talking about eco-friendly transport, there are also four electric vehicle charging bays for customers.
The Royals’ shops include some big-hitting names, such as Debenhams, Boots and TK Maxx, as well as less well-known brands like Wood Nation and the health food chain Grape Tree. You can also indulge in some pampering at the salon Nola Beauty, which offers treatments including waxing, threading and massage. A nice touch is the Little Royalty, a free club on-site which offers fun activities for children aged three to nine.
Further inland and very close to Southend Victoria Train Station, the Victoria Shopping Centre promises high street favourites and independent boutiques among its 40 stores. Here you'll find Games Workshop, New Look, Next, H Samuel, Argos, Boots and Deichmann Shoes, as well as local outlets such as Southend Cards & Stationery, and Couture Cakes by Kosta. There's also a Welcome Gym and students get a 10% discount in many of the shops, including Birdwood Bakery and Subway.
Royals Shopping centre
Victoria Shopping Centre
Lazybones Market might sound like a fancy way of describing internet shopping – but it's actually a popular car boot sale held every Sunday and bank holiday throughout the year. It takes place on a hard-standing site in Leigh-on-Sea and has become a magnet for sellers and buyers alike, having featured several times on the BBC TV show Car Booty. There's a cafe on-site, as well as toilets and plenty of parking. Early buyers are welcome from 6am, with children admitted free, and if you're selling, there's no need to book – you just need to arrive before 7am.
If it's produce you're looking for rather than bargains and bric-a-brac, head for Southend Farmers’ Market, which is generally held every second and fourth Saturday in the town's High Street. Run by Essex Farmers' Markets, it specialises in locally harvested fruit and vegetables, meat reared in the area, and bread and cakes baked to traditional recipes. For continental food, check whether your visit coincides with one of the visiting Italian, French or German markets, which are also regularly held in the town.
The same High Street location serves as the base for Southend's General Weekly Market, usually taking place every Thursday just outside the NatWest Bank. A treasure trove of everything from handbags and haberdashery to clothing and confectionery, you're extremely unlikely to come away empty-handed!
While Southend's shopping areas are crammed with familiar high street chains, the town also has room for designer stores for those interested in specialist high-quality goods. The best known of these is probably Mark | James of Leigh, a boutique in Leigh-on-Sea which has been selling designer menswear since 2011. It mainly focuses on lifestyle brands like Z Zegna, Orlebar Brown, Richard James, and Paul Smith. The shop also offers bespoke and made-to-measure suits, jackets and trousers in both contemporary and classic styles.