A Fresh Approach To Shopping At The Orchards
by Lisa De Silva
On a recent visit to the Orchards Shopping Centre in Haywards Heath, Lisa de Silva discovered more about this busy, vibrant community minded retail centre.
While the past decade has been a challenging time for much of the country’s retail industry, the Orchards Shopping Centre in Haywards Heath continues to buck the trend. With a strong mix of retailers, a bustling market and full calendar of community events, it is no surprise that the Orchards achieved close to a 5.5 million footfall in 2018. “I believe our success is down to the fact that we are so much more than just a shopping centre,” explains Centre Manager, Nicola Bird. “We run more community events here than any other known shopping centre in the country and they are all free of charge. It’s a great way to bring people in so they can see what a fantastic range of retailers we have, both in terms of national brands, like Marks and Spencer and Fat Face, as well as independents like Calliope and Locks & Cobblers.”
The variety of retailers is impressive; from clothing, jewellers, and hairdressers to homeware, gift shops, beauty salons and eateries, such as the ever-popular Bay Tree Cafe, serving the best Sussex has to offer. Another big hit with customers is the thriving weekly market which runs every Thursday to Saturday. “Our market continues to go from strength to strength,” Nicola tells me. “We’ve got two new street food stalls, Italian and Thai which are really popular and complement our other regulars selling cakes, bread, jewellery and rare plants, but the backbone of the market is Quality Fruits.”
Quality Fruits was previously on the Broadway in Haywards Heath but can now be found selling fruit and veg every Wednesday to Saturday in the Orchards and on Saturdays customers can enjoy a vitamin C boost with a drink from their fresh orange juice machine.
Nicola is passionate about bringing the community together and making the Orchards a social hub where people can meet up and make new friends and has developed a full calendar of exciting events for 2019. “There is no charge for any of our events and our aim is to get people socialising and enjoy being part of the community,” she says.
The calendar kicks off with a Mother’s Day Workshop on Saturday 30th March. Last year over 100 children came to the event and made or decorated a gift to give to their mums on Mother’s Day. A similar event is planned for Saturday 13th April, with an Easter Workshop where children can enjoy festive crafting, before the big Easter Egg Hunt on Saturday 20th April. Always a popular event, the Easter eggs are hidden in retailers’ windows and the children have to see how many they can spot.
The Orchards also has a strong commitment to good causes and is a proud sponsor of Haywards Heath Rugby Club Minis, and is proud to support health and well-being in the community at large. What’s more, over the past five years the Orchards has raised over £20,000 for the Great Ormond Street Hospital charity. “We love raising money for good causes and from this year we’ve decided to change our charity on an annual basis. As 2019 is the centenary of Save the Children, we’ve chosen to hold a fundraiser as part of the centre’s Transforming Tomorrow campaign,” says Nicola. This exciting event will take place on Saturday 18th May with live entertainment on the green, pony rides, a disco dome, workshops, Spanish dancing and a Zumba-thon.
The warmer summer months are a great opportunity to enjoy some local outdoor activities and this year the Orchards has a great range of events on offer. From 4-9pm on Friday 21st and Saturday 22nd June the centre is hosting the Power of Music weekend, featuring professional artists performing a vast array of music. Or for a more family-orientated day out, put Saturday 13th July in your diary for the annual Strictly Fun day, with an assault course and arcade games. Another date to add is 3rd August when Adur Concert Band will be performing.
Another new and charitable event the Orchards are proud to be hosting this year is the Music Against Cancer celebration. Professional local singer Tania Rodd asked the centre to be the southeast venue for this national event which will include professional bands from all over the country coming along to sing. Music Against Cancer is on Sunday 18th August and all money raised on the day will be donated to St Peter & St James Hospice in Chailey.
Orchard’s Beach Week marks its fifth year in 2019 and runs from Thursday 22nd to Saturday 24th August featuring large sandpits, Marco the Magician, Punch and Judy show, plate-spinning, magic tricks, large inflatable and a fun photo booth. “Marco is phenomenal,” laughs Nicola. “We couldn’t do it without him. He makes it such great fun for everyone.”
The last event in the calendar is the Orchards Christmas Festival on Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th November. It is a two day spectacular with back to back entertainment and the big Christmas lights switch on at 5pm. And if all of that wasn’t enough, Nicola has arranged some Spanish dancing from the local Spanish dance company, Alegria. The dancers will be flamenco dancing as well as showcasing Flamenco Fitness and everyone is welcome to join in the fun and bring a touch of Spanish passion into their lives. Alegria will be in the Orchards from 11am to 1pm on Saturday 27th April, 15th June and 14th September.
“I wanted to bring in something a little bit different,” says Nicola, “to put a smile on people’s faces.”
With the Orchards Centre Management team at the helm, and a new app in the pipeline, designed to highlight the best of the retailers offers, promotions and community events, the future is looking bright for the Orchards.
The Orchards Shopping Centre
Address: 10 St Wilfrid’s Way, Haywards Heath, RH16 3QH
Telephone: 01444 410620