After seeing in the May Day sunrise in traditional fashion at Barr Beacon, a female morris dancing troupe by the name of The Glorishears of Brummagen undertook the journey into central Birmingham.
Once more they performed their ritual. With a shake of the Glorishears' giant hankies and the tinkling of their footbells echoing round the The Great Western Arcade, the management of the Victorian retail centre off Colmore Row hoped that, as reputed, their ancient dance would guarantee a year of strong trading.
Only the passing of the seasons will tell whether the rituals did indeed cast the required spell but in the meantime, with around a third of the units unlet, some of the shopkeepers are hoping for rather stronger measures than morris dancing is known to provide.
With the arcade supporting a mix of small independent businesses, franchises and national multiples, the many views emerging from the spot are mixed - but one sentiment is consistent. Since the arcade was taken over from Prudential last year by Omega Properties, the promised renaissance at what could be one of Birmingham's prime shopping locations has yet to fully emerge.
One of the small retailers who is anxious to see the site punch its weight is Matt Joutsikoski, the owner of the Left Foot shoe shop on the Colmore Row and Great Western Arcade corner. He chose the spot because of its proximity to the luxury-loving legal and accountancy district, but the location is not altogether a boon.
"We're in the heart of the business district and that can be a challenge for retailers as we are some way from the main shopping area," he says.
"Although we do have a location close to our potential market, it is still a challenge. It means we have to shout louder. As the arcade is characterised by small retailers, raising our voice can be even more of a challenge."
It is for this reason that the national letting agent Hammond Phillips is keen to seek a mix of small independents and well-known - and well-respected - bigger names.
"With Dr&Herbs just coming in, it is part of the anchor," says Mostafa Sbitri, the associate director at Hammond Phillips who oversees the arcade. "If it had too many independents, it wouldn't have the right kind of pull."
Equally, the agents are not keen to let in any big names that don't fit the character they are trying to develop.
"We are pursuing a long-term strategy," he tells Business Property Review.
"We could let any of the shops day in day out. Fast food companies are knocking on the door but we are trying to be selective, while commercially minded."
With the number of empty windows disturbingly high, one of the retailers told The Post the centre is still some way off from being what everyone clearly hopes it will develop into.
"It does have its problems - it's a Victorian shopping centre and it's a through road, not a destination shopping centre at the moment. It can be a challenge with that sort of set-up," the shopkeeper says.
Facing such issues, a number of retailers are having to be innovative. The independents who spoke to The Post had all developed websites to reach out beyond the arcade to virtual customers.
In fact, optical specialist Sherwoods admitted before closing its arcade shop earlier this year, that its internet business had outperformed its arcade equivalent to the extent that moving to a sleepy Cotswold village would make little difference to trade.
Another retailer, Matt Joutsikoski, picks up the theme, saying: "Retail environment has changed beyond recognition over the past 50 years. You can't change the arcade but you can change the way you do business here - you can change the shopping experience."
His foot scanner at Left Shoe company has proved a successful novelty in its own right and strong word of mouth has seen his shop proudly shown off by Birmingham residents demonstrating the city's shopping highlights.
"We are a clearly a good example," he says. "It's a cliche to say you need to change all the time, but it's true."
Although a number of shopkeepers are reticent to go on record to describe their feelings about the arcade, a number describe their disappointment at a perception the arcade has yet to move with the times.
"There are so many empty shops," says one. "It is not as attractive as it used to be, but it doesn't mean it couldn't get better. We'll stick with it as long as we can get flexible lease terms."
For the time being, this retailer seemed disappointed that the independent sector has yet to be fully promoted.
"The big players with resources move in, stopping smaller ones from innovating. We've all heard of the death of the high street. It's strange all the retailers put a lot of emphasis on personal service and good quality products but they are hallmarks that don't seem to be communicated."
Mr Sbitri would agree that the arcade is still some way off the desired retail mix, and although he laughs off arcade manager Gay Faulkner's contention that it would be fully let within six months, he says the arcade is getting there.
Deals on three units are likely to be finalised within two months and talks are under way with two or three others that may result in lettings over the next six months.
Local letting agency Wright Silverwood has also made progress in its joint bid to fill vacant units at the site, signing on N2 hair and Europa Digital Processing earlier this year, but even if it were fully let, some shopkeepers are eager to see the conversion of some of the top-storey space overlooking the arcade into bustling eateries in an effort to encourage people to linger.
The management fears shoppers could fall from the balcony unless modifications are made, but it seems opening up the the upper balconies for cafe use could be on the horizon, according to Mr Sbitri. Planning and health and safety constraints mean it is a slow job to alter the grade two listed building, which dates back to 1876, and sits on top of old railway tunnels. Further good news is that with the Bullring-effect, the changing polarity of Birmingham's retail compass has made less difference to the arcade's businesses than some had feared.
"My trade hasn't really been affected," says Mr Joutsikoski, of Left Foot. "I'm on a smaller scale and, given the vibrancy of the city, it hasn't really affected me. It's not the sort of competition that would really affect me."
Jerry Lu, of Dr&Herbs, reports mixed trading since his shop opened late last year. "The first three months were not so good, but since last month it has been quite good," he admits. "It is up and down here though and can be very quiet."
His last experience working in a city of a comparable size was in Manchester, where he found trading far busier.
"I am very confident for the future, however," he says. His shop now sports a giant plasma television in the window demonstrating the gentle art of tai chi as practised by resident Dr Wang in an upper-level room.
The verdict from other retailers varies from satisfied with current trading levels to a stoical hope that it will perk up.
"From a footfall point of view, it has been superb," says Pierre Soualah, of high-end chocolate retailers Chouchoute.
"The thoroughfare is the main reason we wanted to locate here. We saw we could get regular trade from the business community."
Given the exceptional quality of Chouchoute's chocolates, which are hand made on the continent to a unique recipe, the shop also draws in customers from as far a field as Manchester and Liverpool.
The appearance of the Great Western suits the business well, according to Mr Soulah. It is clearly the sort of shop that could form a linchpin of a vibrant independent-rich shopping area.
"I think the arcade is beautiful, gorgeous in fact, but we would like to see more creative and independent shops here," he says.
"If this was London it would be a dream, the atmosphere here with more beautiful shops, the best of small artisans."
Mr Soulah is not alone in believing the economic benefits of such a vision would merit wider planning intervention.
"It is the sort of place we would expect to find independents, and we'd like to see more of them," he says. "If you could put that together it could become a destination of choice, like Covent Garden."
Fortunately for Mr Soulah and the like-minded, Mr Sbitri spoke of a three-pronged management strategy for the centre, which could achieve just that.
It is evidently still in the first phase - filling the unlet units. Next will come the retention of let but empty units, and then the selective weeding out of incongruous tenants who do not fit the overall ambience of the arcade.
Centre manager Gay Faulkner is optimistic about its future - and, indeed, its current condition. She dismisses gaps in the retail line-up as a temporary blip.
"We are anxious to get trading in a full arcade. We have 28 trading shops, and have had six new signings within the last six months," she says, adding the recently-opened Flight Centre was off to a flying start while the recently vacated Sherwoods triple unit is attracting "a lot of healthy interest".
She says: "Being a thoroughfare does have its advantages. There is the early-morning trade from Snow Hill with people going to other parts to work and then it has a knock-on effect. They dash through in the morning and it stays in their mind."
Ms Faulkner believes there is plenty of room in her arcade for the independents and big name multiples. The arcade is currently home to a small Boots and cut-price bakery Greggs, which sports a standard blue plastic frontage unlike the other shops which have carefully avoided the high street look.
"There is a pleasant mix," says Ms Faulkner.
"It is a good thing to have multiples with one-offs. They provide healthy competition for the f a m i l y - o w n e d businesses."
If it transpires the Glorishears of Brummagen were unsuccessful in casting their spell over the arcade, retailers will be relieved to hear they are not the only marketing surprise up Ms Faulkner's sleeve.
"We have a lot of promotional activities such as spot the golden egg at Easter where we gave several prizes out to children," she says, adding that she also has a number of musicians at her disposal. On Mothers' Day she personally gave out bouquets of flowers to passing ladies.
"My approach was - would you be celebrating Mothers' Day? Would you like some flowers on behalf of the arcade?"
If the tactics seems to contrast with the high-energy shopping centres of the 21st century, Ms Faulkner believes they are what her clientele would want from her beautiful arcade, which she says will shortly get a new lick of paint. She does not seem to share the concern felt by some.
"I'm definitely optimistic," she says. Omega European Investments, which acquired the site in an deal estimated at #15 million just over a year ago, will certainly want to see that optimism translate into profit. Hammond Phillips said at the time after many years of inertia it had an ongoing and definite plan for getting retailers and shoppers back in the arcade. Over a year later the desperate gaps are still there, but perhaps that isn't so surprising.
If Hammond Phillips is as determined as it said it is to create the right blend of quality outlets for the longterm, then it is a mix that will inevitably be some time in the brewing. Its first letting to luxury foods firm Vom Fass suggests it is going in the right direction.
The next test will come if or when the arcade is fully let. Will Mr Sbitri and his team maintain their stated determination to pursue a strategy of improvement by weeding out the outlets that add the least to the arcade's allure?
With a little bit of luck, and perhaps a song or two from the Glorishears of Brummagen, hopefully it won't be long until the arcade's current tenants find out.