Birmingham’s Style Live event showed the role Business Improvement Districts can play in creating excitement which brings shoppers back into town.
The centre of Birmingham suffered particularly badly in the riots of last month. While in London it was the suburbs which were targeted, Birmingham - along with Manchester - had its city centre trashed and visiting a few days after for the Test Match, I saw for myself not just the physical damage which had been done, but how few shoppers there were in the immediate aftermath.
So it was great to be back at the weekend and see a city centre brimming with energy and crucially packed with shoppers, many of whom seemed to be from out of town. The occasion was Style Birmingham Live, three days of catwalk shows and offers and events which it seemed most of the city’s fashion retailers were participating in.
On Saturday morning the Mailbox was the busiest I’d seen it, and all the seats in Harvey Nichols’ new champagne bar were taken by 1130. What was clear was that mothers and daughters, or groups of friends, from the surrounding counties had been excited by the event, and many had booked tickets to go to the shows and were building a day’s shopping and eating around it.
It was proof that done right, a co-ordinated approach to attracting people into town, involving retailers, restaurants and the local authorities, brought together by the BID organisation, can work in drawing in the shoppers. It’s the sort of activity which points the way to the future for our town and city centres.