For shoppers and the local economy alike, it was a much-needed shot in the arm for Birmingham’s retail sector when Bullring shopping centre first opened its doors to the world’s fashionistas.
Now the centre will celebrate its seventh birthday on Saturday, September 4, and its bosses are united in the belief that, so far, it has been a resounding success story. The centre has attracted 267 million shoppers through its doors in the last seven years.
And it’s not only proven a place to shop, broadcasters have also used the centre to film ITV’s This Morning, BBC’s The Hustle and Channel 4’s How to Look Good Naked and Fashion Fix, fronted by stylist and designer Gok Wan.
The flamboyant presenter admits he has a soft spot for both the city and the Bullring.
“The Bullring is so iconic it’s a fantastic building to be creative in,” he said. “The crowds at the Bullring are amazing too, they just love to be part of the show.”
He says having the Bullring in Birmingham was helping the city to become a real rival to London.
“Fashion used to be really London-focused but now, with designers opening stores outside of London in places like the Bullring, that’s no longer the case.
“Birmingham is really stylish, it’s really flying the flag for fashion north of London.”
Gok is not the only Bullring fan, with the nation voting it the UK’s third favourite landmark in a recent survey – the London Eye and Big Ben beating it.
Proof that it is winning popularity away from the capital came in July when Apple launched the latest version of its iPhone.
While Apple in Oxford Street had 600 people waiting outside to get their hands on the phone, the Bullring’s store was met with 1,100 shoppers eagerly queueing throughout the mall right up to Rotunda Square.
Tim Walley, general manager at the centre, said: “As we reach our seventh birthday we’re thrilled to have established Bullring as the UK’s most visited shopping centre.
“We have had a wonderful seven years and we can only hope that the years to come will be equally as successful.”
Mr Walley is confident the Bullring’s future is looking prosperous, despite the country’s current battle for economic recovery.
Last month it revealed that later this year top US fashion chain Forever 21 would be opening its first store in the UK in the Bullring in the 50,000 sq ft space currently vacated by Curry’s and Borders.
Other soon-to-be newcomers includes Jamie Oliver’s first restaurant in Birmingham, called Jamie’s Italian, which will open in the autumn, as well as a Jeff Bains shop, Pop Store and fitness centre called The Gym.
“This year we have seen a wealth of new retailers arriving at the centre which demonstrates Bullring’s attractiveness to retailers not just on a UK scale but world-wide,” Mr Walley added.