As you might have heard, social media sensation James Charles recently came to Bullring to celebrate the recent opening of the new Morphe store, and for a meet and greet with 250 of his ‘sisterhood’. It’s hard to overestimate James’ popularity – he has 13.8m followers on Instagram and almost 14m subscribers on Youtube. It’s no exaggeration to say that James’ make-up tutorials, challenges and reviews reach more people than the Sun, the Daily Mail, the Evening Standard and the Daily Mirror combined. And what’s more, his core audience is under 18s, a group which traditionally is difficult for brands to reach.
On the day, along with the 250 lucky ticketholders, there was no fewer than 8,000 ‘sisters’ on the mall just there for a glimpse of their star. In total, there were around 20,000 people at the centre when the event was taking place, and Bullring’s video of the visit has been watched by over 360,000 people on its social media channels. On top of that, in his first video after the event, James talked about how great the day had been, and that clip has now been watched by over 11.5m people – by any metric that is a huge success.
But there’s more to it even than that. This was the first time James had come to the UK for an official visit, and of all the locations and places he could have chosen, he came to Birmingham, and Bullring. That’s a huge vote of confidence in the city, and also demonstrates the status of Bullring as a flagship destination.
We know that more and more people are looking for unique and unforgettable experiences, for that ‘big day out’ with their friends and family which will live long in the memory. We also know that when destinations offer something new and innovative, shoppers are willing to invest both their time and money to see it.
We’ve already seen that at other experiences we’ve organised. Trinny Woodall’s event at Brent Cross to celebrate her beauty collection attracted shoppers in their droves, and the Black Mirror Bandersnatch pop-up at Bullring, which involved the creation of a fully themed 80s shop, saw fans flocking to the centre. You also have to think outside the box – at Highcross, Leicester, for the festive period we created a specially adapted grotto experience for young people with additional needs, such as autism, so that they could share the Christmas joy with their family. And then this weekend we’re expecting thousands to visit Bullring to catch a glimpse of Ronan Keating, as Boyzone complete the next leg of their farewell tour.
What this tells us is that it’s up to all of us in the industry, whether that’s landlords, retailers, or F&B brands, to go that extra mile for our customers. That means organising unique events like the James Charles visit, creating truly experiential stores and food concepts, and making sure our centres have a compelling and exciting mix of brands.
At the end of the day, 8,000 people came to the Bullring because nothing beats seeing your hero in the flesh. That was the same with the Beatles in the 60s, Oasis in the 90s, Beyoncé in the 00s, and it’s the same today.
And for us at Hammerson, this is exactly the type of event that we want to see more of – a genuinely unique experience which attracted thousands of people and drove footfall to one of our flagship centres – as a curator of space, we are now in the business of giving shoppers experiences money can’t buy, and we’re already seeing the benefit of this.
This piece was featured in Retail Gazette, Tuesday 12 February