Why today is a big day for Birmingham in re-establishing itself as Britain’s second city.

Today marks the opening of the latest mega shopping centre (destination is perhaps a better word), Grand Central in Birmingham. The scheme has cost £150m and is part of an overall £600m investment in the station area.

It is half a million square feet (500,000 sq ft) in total and will be anchored by John Lewis, its first shop in the city! Also of note is the fact that this has not been funded by one of the big developer names but by Birmingham City Council itself.

It will bring many new names to the city including The White Company, Hobbs, Joules, Foyles, Cath Kidston and Tiger and is also likely to see existing retailers open second stores but with the likely impact that the old store will close.

Also it has an extensive food offer (Carluccios, Ed’s Easy Diner, Square Pie’s first store outside London and Tapas Revolution to mention but a few – there will be 18 eating units) and its website shouts the words SHOP and EAT. And there is not a discount shop in sight! The images show how significant the eating offer is by number.


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It is forecasted to attract 50 million people a year and bring to Birmingham the infrastructure and destination status that it has sought for a very long time.

This is very good news for the residents, visitors and workers of Birmingham and as with any development of this size what will be the impact both within the city – the high streets and the other big retail schemes in the city namely The Mail Box and Bullring.

Both, the former more recently, are strong destinations in their own right and so how will visitors to the city spend their time if each location wants a dwell time of 3-4 hours. To do all three let alone throwing in any high streets would be a marathon and require a second mortgage!

Only time will tell but when you throw a big stone into a pond you get a big ripple.

What will the ripples be for the wider Birmingham retail market not forgetting Solihull, Kings Heath, Perry Bar, Wolverhampton and the seventeen shopping centres and retail parks on the outskirts of the city?

Birmingham’s high streets have an overall vacancy rate of 14% (GB average 11%) and has been improving from a peak of 26% in 2010 so how will this change?

Economic wealth through jobs and infrastructure delivers people with money in their pockets so there are much wider regional factors that will ultimately determine Birmingham’s success as the country’s second city. Manchester may have a view on this! Leeds is next up on this scenario with the Hammerson Victoria Quarter development next door to Trinity Leeds.

I and the LDC team will keep you posted!


Image credit: Verity E. Milligan

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