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Birmingham: The city's big retail ambitions

Pavilions Low Res Presentation 110915 51

Infrastructure development is putting the West Midlands city’s shopping districts at the heart of the UK retail map. Click here for an interactive view of the changes.

Curzon Street, Birmingham B4 7XE

The multibillion-pound High-Speed 2 rail project that would link Birmingham with London, followed by Manchester and Leeds by 2033, could be the next big infrastructure project for the city, if it can be finalised. The government’s plans will be set out before the end of the year. 

Campaigners who support the project, the route for which remains contentious, predict it could boost the West Midlands economy by £4bn a year, create up to 50,000 jobs and give local businesses access to a larger pool of employees. 

New Look chief executive Anders Kristiansen says: “Birmingham is an important city to New Look and we believe that the ongoing development and improved transport links will only enhance the city’s reputation for retail. We are proud to have two excellent stores in Birmingham, one in the Bullring and the other on Corporation Street, and we are looking to strengthen our presence further, specifically with a standalone menswear store.” 

Pendigo Way, Birmingham B40 1PU

Europe’s first Resorts World leisure destination opened in Birmingham on October 21. Located at the city’s NEC next to Birmingham International rail station, the £150m complex has the West Midlands’ first large-scale outlet with 50 stores including Next, H&M, Pretty Green and Pringle of Scotland. These sit alongside Britain’s biggest casino, 18 bars and restaurants, a spa, an Imax cinema, and a four-star hotel with five-star suites. Since opening, it has attracted 10,000 visitors a day. 

Paul Burbridge, store manager of men’s and women’s wear independent Disorder Boutique, says the arrival of an outlet centre is not proving a worry for smaller stores: “The general feeling is that Birmingham shoppers are quite savvy; they’re not going to buy something just because it’s cheap – they want good-quality stock. Resorts World is also far enough away from the main city centre not to pose a direct threat on a day-to-day basis.”

38 High Street, Birmingham B4 7SL

Primark plans to open one of its biggest stores in the world in Birmingham after buying the Pavilions shopping centre in July for a reported £60m. If it wins planning consent, the value retailer will move from New Street to the 150,000 sq ft four-floor store, which has pedestrian access between Moor Street and High Street, in spring 2018. 

Primark said the scheme, Primark Pavilions, would give a new lease of life to the 250,000 sq ft city centre mall, which opened in 1987. H&M and Marks & Spencer are expected to remain in situ. 

Ed Purcell, senior surveyor in the Midlands retail agency team for property adviser Cushman & Wakefield, says it is just one example of investment in the city: “Birmingham has increased its appeal among investors, offering tangible rental growth in places and competitive yields, compared with the largely saturated southeast markets.  

68A East Mews, Birmingham B2 4XJ

Grand Central Birmingham is the result of a £600m redevelopment of Birmingham New Street railway station. Opened in September this year, the 500,000 sq ft centre has created 66 new retail shops and restaurants, including TM Lewin, Hobbs and Joules, as well as a 250,000 sq ft John Lewis department store. More than 300,000 shoppers visited Grand Central over the opening weekend alone, and more than 1 million people passed through the doors by the end of its first fortnight of trading, says the centre’s general manager Jonathan Cheetham. 

However, Phil Hazel, owner of two-store Birmingham men’s and women’s wear indie Liquor Store, is confident the vast new scheme will not overshadow independent retailers: “If anything there is a feel-good factor in Birmingham and the independent scene in the city is thriving because of all the big headlines it’s getting. There’s a real momentum, which is encouraging people to open more independents.” 

7 Commercial Street, Birmingham B1 1RS

The Mailbox’s new-look shopping centre positions itself as Birmingham’s premium and luxury destination, home to retailers such as Gieves & Hawkes, LK Bennett and Boss. Jaeger will open in early 2016. The 640,980 sq ft centre reopened on October 22, after closing for a £50m refurbishment in 2013. Harvey Nichols has moved to the centre of the scheme, where its 45,000 sq ft flagship – double the size of its previous store – features a new concept focusing on luxury retail and technology. 

Paul Finucane, group stores and trading director at Harvey Nichols, says: “The redevelopment of The Mailbox has secured its place as the home of luxury retail in Birmingham. The city attracted more than 20 million shoppers in 2013 – this is expected to rise by 750,000 by the close of this year. Our new Birmingham store has doubled in size and we worked closely with design specialist Virgile &Partners to create a new concept in design that integrates digital technology and services, from a state-of-the-art 360-degree mirror and digital wayfinders [that send shoppers in-store offers] to mobile payment.” 


“Birmingham is a thriving city and we welcome the investment in the region that benefits consumers and retailers alike. It is great to see the city develop, and gain a stronger foothold on the country’s retail map.”

Beth Butterwick, chief executive of Bonmarché, which has a store in Martineau Way, near the Pavilions

“Trading in our stores hasn’t been grossly affected by any of the new centres. On the one hand retailers can look at them as more competition, but on the other it’s a greater draw for people to come to Birmingham. We are constantly looking at our store portfolio and have done so with each of the openings. It takes a while for people to change footfall habits and we believe we’re in good, strong locations.” 

Colin Temple, chief executive of Schuh, which has a store in the Bullring

“These developments are great for the city, bringing in money, housing and jobs. The city treats independents quite well but some BIDs [business improvement districts] offer better treatment than others, so we may look to open a more central store.”

Matthew Roden, head tailor at Midlands-based premium menswear independent Clements & Church

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