Case Study: Great Western Arcade

As self-confessed shopaholics, the retail sector in Birmingham is one that EAST VILLAGE. knows well. However, while we know the High Street and every shopping centre like the back of our hand, the one that has always captured our heart is the beautiful Grade-II listed Great Western Arcade. Our very own MD, Tara Tomes, started her very first Saturday job there when she worked for SIMS Footwear so it’s a long-time love affair. 

EAST VILLAGE. was instructed to deliver PR, marketing, and social media support for Great Western Arcade, to help it navigate a crucial transition. With #TeamEV.’s help and guidance, GWA upped its game from being a public thoroughfare to a haven for those searching for the city’s most exciting independent brands.

The Ask.

On boarded by CBRE just as the arcade was changing Centre Managers, EAST VILLAGE. was tasked with suggesting, creating, and communicating Great Western Arcade’s new direction. Looking to go from Victorian kitsch to heritage cool, the aim was to establish GWA as the one-stop-shop for all of Birmingham’s retail needs, delivered by small businesses.

The ask was to reintroduce Great Western Arcade to the people of the city, gain national attention to put it on the map, and provide key on-the-ground comms support for the arcade – and the brands that made their name there – through PR, social media, events, and advertising. In addition to helping identify potential new start-ups and scale-ups to join the GWA family. 

Our Approach.

Working with Great Western Arcade for three years in total, we kicked things off with a comprehensive year-on-year comms strategy, highlighting the key seasonal stories we’d make the most of each month. This saw us link our PR stories into national initiatives, like Small Business Saturday, and regional campaigns, including Birmingham Heritage Week, to really shout about what set the arcade apart and make the most the retailers who made their home there. 

Added to this, we managed all aspects of Great Western Arcade’s social media, from the inception of the channels, through to the day-to-day content management, copy creation, audience engagement and ad spend. Through crafting the content, we were able to capture the arcade in real-time and ensure that while we showcased their own businesses, we still maintained brand consistency for GWA.

Furthermore, using our insight and connections in the retail scene, we were able to help inform a new pop-up strategy for the arcade, which saw the empty units rented out to shorter-term tenants, who aligned with GWA’s new direction. This included working with Birmingham fashion retailer P&Co. and Provide Birmingham to set up their first physical stores, as well as Glimpse Opticians, the sister-company to Harborne’s Brittain Opticians.

These approaches not only saw EAST VILLAGE. capture the best side of GWA; it also allowed us to play an active role in engaging with each of the tenants in the arcade, telling the stories of Loki WineAnderson & HillProjekt21 and Peter Forson in a compelling and engaging way. Conducting weekly walk-arounds, we would work with them to ensure that their own marketing strategies were being complemented by the arcade’s as a whole.

End Results.

EAST VILLAGE.’s approach to comms for GWA saw the arcade’s city-wide brand perception grow, consistently increasing dwell-time. Not only did we help to, once again, get Birmingham excited about the arcade; we brought life back to its centre, with everything from a pop-up cinema in partnership with Colmore BID, an orchestra playing a free concert in one of the vacant units, a market-style weekend with all the retailers trading from their shopfronts, a gin-bar in honour of Birmingham Cocktail Weekend and a choir singing Christmas carols from the Victorian balconies.

During our time working together, we grew Great Western Arcade’s social following across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to 20k, and consistently generated over 100k impressions across these platforms each month. 

What’s more, our PR coverage saw us regularly feature across all the regional consumer and business titles – including Style Birmingham, Birmingham Living, Birmingham Mail, Express & Star, Birmingham Post –as well as securing national coverage in The Guardian, Culture TripThe Sunday Times, GQ, The Mail on Sunday and Shortlist.

Tara Tomes