By David Atkins
Bullring is celebrating its tenth birthday this week. And while ten years of trading, may to some, not sound that significant, the pace of change in the retail world over the past decade has been phenomenal.
The retail landscape in 2003 was vastly different to today. Brands that are now considered high street favourites such as Hollister and Forever21 were yet to join the UK retail scene and the iphone was still to revolutionise the mobile market. The multichannel experience was in its infancy and online shopping was a glint in most retailers’ eyes.
With major changes in both the retail and economic landscape over the past 10 years, the key to Bullring’s success has been its constant drive to maintain its significance and relevance with both consumers and retailers.
Before the regeneration, people had stopped shopping in central Birmingham. The old centre was outdated, it physically cut the city in half and was dominated by vacant units and temporary stores, all housed in uninspiring concrete architecture.
The new scheme had to provide a reason for people to come back to Birmingham to shop. The design of the new Bullring reconnected the centre with the wider city, delivered landmark architecture and brought 90 new brands to the city that raised shoppers’ expectations of what retail in Birmingham was about. Furthermore, the promise of its potential, encouraged the likes of Debenhams back to the city after a long absence, and was chosen by Selfridges for its third UK store. Bullring was the first of a breed of truly transformational city centre retail schemes.
We knew that the scheme would be a game changer for the city, but I don’t think we anticipated how much of a difference it would make and even ten years on – continues to do so. John Lewis is opening next year adjacent to New Street station and Bullring’s success would have undoubtedly been a major factor in their decision-making process for taking a city centre store.
However, shopping today is about more than just shops – it’s the whole experience. A decade ago, stopping for a coffee while shopping was a chance to rest your feet rather than a destination in itself and making a trip to eat out in a shopping centre restaurant was extremely rare. Since opening, we have built on this growing trend for experience by doubling the number of catering units and delivering Spiceal Street, a new area dedicated to high quality dining.
So what will the next ten years hold for the centre? If the pace of change continues at the same rate, it’s a tough prediction. However, our confidence in Bullring’s potential remains and our recent purchase of an additional stake this year emphasises this. To drive future growth there are a number of asset management and development opportunities including the introduction of a cinema and additional catering.
Bullring changed the way the industry, local authorities and retailers looked at city centre retail development. We are proud to have been a part of that and as our centres continue to adjust as part of the evolving retail landscape, Bullring could be just as instrumental in shaping the sector again during the next decade.