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Grand Central underpins Birmingham's retail boom

The new £150m Grand Central shopping and leisure centre will open its doors for business in Birmingham tomorrow, anchored by a 250,000 sq ft John Lewis.

As John Lewis’ 32nd full-line department store and the first to open in four years, the four-floor space includes its new boutique-style womenswear concept Loved & Found. A new look for its women’s footwear department, World of Women’s Shoes, features new brands and a greater focus on service.

Other retailers, including The White Company, Hobbs, Joules and Cath Kidston, will also make their Birmingham debut at Grand Central, which sits above the upgraded £600m New Street station.

Menswear independent Steel & Jelly, which has been trading online since 2004, has chosen Grand Central as the location for its first bricks-and-mortar store. Marketing and PR manager Lucy Bullock said: “With these new developments attracting so many prestigious brands, Birmingham’s retail market is flourishing and we are excited to be a part of that.”

Phil Hazel, owner of menswear independent Liquor Store in Great Western Arcade, which opened a womenswear branch in an adjacent unit in August, sits on the board of business improvement district organisation Retail Birmingham. He said the new developments are creating a buzz in the city.

“Birmingham is having so much development at the moment, which is long overdue, but there’s a good feeling in the city, like there’s a lot of momentum again,” he said.

“It’s not the finished article – there’s still some work on the trams that needs to take place – but all the new developments are starting to encourage more people into the city centre, which can only be a good thing.”

The opening of Grand Central follows the relaunch of Harvey Nichols’ upsized store at The Mailbox at the end of July. Store manager Richard Vickery said: “There’s a huge appetite for luxury brands in the region.”

It has been “massively well received” by shoppers, agreed Melanie Taylor, head of leasing at The Mailbox’s co-owner Milligan. “The interest it created in terms of footfall was unprecedented.”

Most recently, Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein Underwear have signed up to open at The Mailbox, alongside independent tailor Clements & Church, which will open its second Birmingham store in the centre later this year.

The city has an affluent catchment area, explained David Pardoe, head of marketing, retail and tenant engagement at The Mailbox. He pointed out that the Midlands has more than 92,000 millionaires, which is more than any other region outside of the Southeast.

It is now the first city outside of London to have the five main department stores – John Lewis, Selfridges, House of Fraser, Harvey Nichols and Debenhams – within five minutes’ walking distance of each other.

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