Birmingham celebrates the Independents

As well as having a truly fabulous array of High Street names, Birmingham City Centre has a fabulous selection of independent stores that sell everything from clothes and shoes, to succulent sweeties and food. On Thursday night, as part of ‘retail independents week’,  The beautiful Great Western Arcade was transformed into an indoor garden for ‘Celebration of the Independents’, a fashion show and soiree, organised by Retail Birmingham, which showcased the best of Brum’s independent companies.

The Grade 2 listed shopping arcade, one of Birmingham’s treasures was transformed into an indoor secret garden with a green carpet, bunting and topiary, and living statues that provided surprises for one or two people. A luxury drinks reception of peach Bellinis, cupcakes and canapes went down a storm, showcasing the talents of the 90 day Cafe, Anderson and Hill, the Victoria restaurant, and Bitters ‘n’ twisted venues. There were also sweet treats provided by one of my favourite independents , Mr Simms Olde Sweet Shoppe (how I love old school sweeties in paper bags!).

The show itself provided the 300 guests with a clear picture of the best fashion and beauty on offer in Birmingham’s independent gems. It featured some of the best independent fashion retailers in the city including Disorder, Breina, Autograph, Atoo, Aspecto, Prowler, Onu, Beadesaurus, Wysteria Lane, Silk Step, Sims Footwear, Sonique and Norton & Townsend. The fantastically dramatic hair styling was provided by award-winning Benjamin Ryan Hair & Beauty. The show featured scenes from the Mad Hatter’s tea party and Pimms on the lawn as it bought a real touch of summer to the second city.

With the High street struggling due to the recession, and independent stores facing more difficulties in a tough financial climate, this show was the perfect showcase for why  we really need to support the independents stores bringing something new and exciting to our towns and cities.


Retail Birmingham Awards light up the city.

675 stylish invited guests from all areas of Birmingham retail life descended on the 2nd city on Thursday for the much-anticipated inaugural Retail Birmingham Awards. These took place at the historic Town Hall, which had been transformed into a stunning, neon lit modern venue complete with large screens and fabulous lights.

The atmosphere before the awards started was electric. There was a buzz of vibrant excitement, as guests enjoyed the fabulous champagne reception laid on by Harvey Nichols. Inside the auditorium, there were cute goodie bags by Mr Simms the Sweet Shoppe that contained popcorn and Old school sweeties, as well as Birmingham style guides and the latest copy of Draper’s Magazine.

The show got off to an amazing start with the gorgeous voices of Only Men Aloud, before presenter Suzanne Virdee took to the stage. She looked absolutely stunning in an elegant black evening dress with a chiffon train. This was teamed with an elaborate choker. She introduced the new chair of Retail Birmingham, Johnathan Cheetham, to the audience. He made a great speech about the retail environment in Birmingham and was cheered loudly when he made the comment ‘I have never seen so many stylish people in such a confined space..’

The awards were voted for by the people of Birmingham through the Style Birmingham site, and as such, are really important in showing the buying opinions of the general public. ‘All Saints’ won the first award, for Best Fashion Retailer -Menswear, and representatives collected awards to the sound of Jessie J’s ‘Do it like a Dude’.  The footwear retailer of the year went to the traditional with a twist Clarks, who beat Kurt Geiger, Dune and Schuh for the coveted award.


Representatives from Clarks receive their award from Jonathan Cheetham


Accessorize was a popular choice for Jewellery and Accessories retailer of the year. Whilst the hair Salon award went to the stylish team from Toni and Guy. Harvey Nichols was the Fashion Retailer womenswear winner, whilst Forever 21 won best new store for it flagship Birmingham branch – the first to open in the UK.  The Bullring won the prestigious award for best shopping destination, whilst the Iconic department store Selfridges won Best department store.


Toni and Guy team best hair salon



Forever 21 team

Selfridges team



Selfridges collect their award


There were special guests to present awards. Birmingham girl Jamelia looked beautiful in a black strappy cocktail dress and sleek shorter haircut.  Foxy and Giuliano from BRMB’S breakfast show presented a couple of awards, and also introduced hot new girl band Parade to the audience, who entertained with a great cover of Cee Lo’s Forget You, as well as their new song Louder, currently featured on the latest Rimmel advert. ‘Only Men Aloud’ returned to set female temperatures soaring with renditions of ‘Angels’ and ‘Don’t rain on my parade.’ There were also appearances by ITV’S Lucy Kite, who presented a fascinating celebration of Independent Birmingham Retailers, and retail bible Retail Week ‘s editor Tim Danaher, who had high praise for the rejuvenation of the city.


Foxy and Giuliano from BRMB






Lucy Kite from ITV Weather



Tim Danaher from Retail News


A fabulous night was enjoyed by all. Special congratulations must go to all those nominated in each category, with a special shout out to all the winners. Retail Birmingham put on a pretty fantastic night and I was glad to be part of it.

Retail Birmingham Awards bring the red carpet to the second city.

The voting has officially just finished. Now the counting will begin to find out who will win the coveted prizes at the inaugural Retail Birmingham Awards. The most important night in the Midlands retail calendar is taking place on March 3rd at Birmingham Town Hall. It will be hosted by glamorous BBC Midlands Today host Suzanne Virdee, and a host of fashionista’s and celebrities are expected to walk the red carpet.

There has been a month-long on-line voting campaign to choose the prize winners. There are 21 categories in total, these include Fashion retailer of the year for menswear and womenswear, ‘Hair salon of the year’, ‘Independent retailer of the year’ and the prestigious ‘shopping destination of the year’. In addition, there is a special award that is sure to please Mary Portas for  ‘Outstanding customer service’. This is voted for by the retailers themselves. The competition will be extremely tough in each category, with stores such as Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, Topshop,  White Stuff, Armani Exchange, Debenhams and Warehouse competing for the prizes.

A whole host of Midlands celebrities are expected to grace the red carpet. Previous years have seen glamorous stars like Jamelia, Beverly Knight and Matt and Emma Willis attending, and whilst the guest list is currently top-secret, you can expect to see some amazing red carpet looks on the night.


Matt and Emma Willis



Steve Hewlett from Retail Birmingham said:

“Following on from three successful years organising the Style Awards, we felt that it was the right time to launch the Retail Birmingham Awards. This year’s awards will encompass a wider range of retailers, as featured in the recent City Centre Shopping Guide, of which 100,000 copies were distributed across the region.

Beg, steal or borrow a ticket, put on your glad rags and strut your stuff on the red carpet. It’s going to be a fantastic night!