Birmingham has a great reputation for its retail repertoire: with the iconic Bullring, the newly opened Grand Central, and the recently refurbished Mailbox; the second city has cemented its place on the map for being a shopaholic’s heaven. However, perhaps Birmingham’s best-kept secret is its thriving small business scene. In recent years, Birmingham has made moves to embrace its independents. Initiatives like Joe Schuppler’s citywide loyalty card, Independent Birmingham, have helped locals and visitors alike to swap big businesses for lesser known shops, restaurants, and cafés.
One of the pioneers in the push for supporting independent retail was, and still is, Great Western Arcade. Built in 1876, the Grade-II listed Victorian arcade was restored in 1984 and has since been voted Birmingham’s favourite building. Set right in the heart of the city, GWA is the home of independent retail, representing a step away from the high street, into an emporium of unique brands. The centre houses around 40 of Birmingham’s best-loved small businesses and is a modern day treasure trove. GWA offers everything from freshly made food and the finest wines, to hand-made trinkets and high-end goods from hand-selected designers. Though the businesses may be small, they are not to be underestimated, as many have been recognised both regionally and nationally by various award boards: GWA’s Loki is the most awarded wine merchant in Birmingham having won 11 major national awards in the past two years, whilst traditional delicatessen Anderson & Hill has been profiled by the Guardian as one of the best budget eateries in the city. The arcade has also recently welcomed luxury accessories store Peter Forson and will soon play host to leading lifestyle and menswear brand P&Co. GWA has gone from strength to strength in recent years, and there seems to be no sign of stopping anytime soon.
Opportunities like Small Business Saturday present GWA with the much-needed and appreciated platform to shout about all that they have to offer. The GWA is choosing to celebrate the day as a collective body, rather than as separate shops.
The general premise concentrates on trading out to get trade in, something that GWA’s central location will lend itself to nicely. The arcade is a popular thoroughfare given its proximity to the city’s major stations, particularly for commuters in the surrounding Colmore Business District, which alone has 35,000 professionals. In recent years, a huge focus for us has been making GWA a destination in its own right. For Small Business Saturday, we want to consolidate this, creating a market-vibe in the arcade itself and showing Birmingham what GWA is all about.
Whilst we are keen to be seen as a whole centre, we are equally eager for each seller to be able to express their image in their own way. With such a wide-range of retailers comes a wide-range of activities. For example, the well-loved Mr Simms Olde Sweet Shoppe is planning to give shoppers a taste of something sweet, having special guests from Alice in Wonderland hand out a selection of pick’n’mix treats.
With the spotlight already on Birmingham’s thriving business scene, Small Business Saturday is set to see GWA shine. Check out GWA on the Small Business Saturday blog…