Not being a particularly large city, shopping in Coventry is mainly for the local residents rather than for anyone visiting Coventry with the specific intention of having a shopping day out. Being part of the West Midlands conurbation the Bull Ring, in Birmingham, and Merry Hill, in Dudley, have much more to offer. However, for the local residents and their general shopping needs, all the main stores are in the city, along with plenty of smaller and independent retailers. The main shopping areas are in pedestrianised zones to the west of the cathedral.
Opening onto Smithford Way is the three storey West Orchards shopping centre which is the place where most shoppers in Coventry will head to for a concentration of shops under one roof. Opened in 1991 it has branches of some of the major High Street chains including: Debenhams, Marks & Spencer and W H Smith. Monday to Saturday it’s open 08:30 to 18:00 (Wednesday it stays open until 19:00) and on Sundays it’s open 10:30 to 16:30. The centre has its own 650 space car park and has a food court capable of holding 700 people at any one time. West Orchards is where the main branches of W H Smith and Debenhams are for Coventry city. The food court contains High street names like KFC and McDonalds as well as some smaller franchises. It also has its own secure car park capable of holding 650 cars. The main ‘on street’ shopping area in Coventry is known as, and is centred on, the Lower Precinct and Cathedral Lanes. This is the area to the south and west of the cathedral and the West Orchard shopping centre, it also incorporates the city’s retail market. Individual store opening times vary but the general rules of weekdays and Saturdays 09:00 to 18:00 and Sundays 11:00 to 17:00 usually apply. Mainly an area in which to shop for fashion items, there is also a small Ikea store and several food and coffee outlets. Due to the many tall buildings in this area, on a windy day it can feel like you’re battling your way down a narrow canyon. The Lower precinct shops are in an area that has been pedestriansied since the 1990s. Part of it is also covered by a glass roof and has two distinct levels. Lower Precinct is the current site of the Cullen mural. The Lower Precinct has several nearby car parks and public transport stops around it.
The Cannon Park shopping centre is at Canley to the west of the city, on Lynchgate Road off Sir Henry Parkes Road. This centre is mainly a food and household items retail outlet, more intended for the local population to the west of the city. However, apart from an enormous Tesco supermarket there are also ‘superstore’ size Wilkinson and Iceland stores. To the north of the outskirts of the city centre, on Stoney Stanton Road, is the Gallagher Retail Park. Completed in 2002, it has ‘warehouse’ style stores so typical of out-of-town- retail parks. Here there are names such as: Argos, MFI, Matalan, Comet and Maplin electronics, JJB Sports and several others. The retail park also has a large McDonald’s fast-food outlet. It is easily accessible from the M6 by following the A444 - Phoenix Way - towards the city from junction 3.
The first recorded market in Coventry was in 1218 when the annual Trinity Fair was first held over a period of eight days. However, it wasn’t until 1346 that Queen Isoldla granted the city a weekly market, which was held in Earls Street. In 1497 the market was being held over three days: Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. With a fourth day, added in the 16th century the market stalls were set up across the city dependent on the wares the stall holders were selling. This system of the market being dispersed around the city centre continued until a dedicated market hall was created in the 1860s. The new Coventry market building, built in 1958 and refurbished in 2003, is now off Queen Victoria Road on the western edge of the city centre. It is open Monday to Saturday from 08:00 in the morning to around 17:00, except Thursdays when it closes at 14:30. Coventry market contains a full range of stores selling food, clothes, household goods and various other artefacts and gifts.
If you find yourself in need of a bank, building society or even a bureaux de change to withdraw some extra funds for your shopping trip in Coventry then head for the High Street. The High Street, between the Precincts area and the Civic Centre, is the main commercial area of the city where you’ll find all the major branches represented.
Alternatives to shopping in Coventry city include: Kenilworth, Rugby, Nuneaton, Warwick and Leamington Spa. All of which are within 15 kilometres of the city centre and offer a wide range of well known High Street stores and some exclusive designer and niche shopping opportunities.