Last week retail chiefs in Birmingham unveiled the results of an initiative designed to encourage more retailers back to the city centre where more than fifty shops are currently standing empty as Britain recovers from the double dip recession.
Non-Profit organisation Retail Birmingham works to promote shops, restaurants and bars in the city and launched a competition called ‘Unique in Birmingham’ to brighten up nine vacant stores and retail units in the city centre.
The competition was flooded with entries and judges have selected nine finalists from local artists, designers and university students who will each be given a thousand pounds to turn their retail designs into reality.
Competition judge Claudia Santillo who represents independent stores for retail Birmingham describes why the competition is so important for the city:
“It has never been more important to support and attract retailers into the city centre to keep it thriving. The project aims to improve the current street scene in the city centre, as well as increase visitor footfall – with the ultimate aim of letting the units to retailers.
“We hope to see some really innovative entries that the city can be proud of and look forward to seeing the ideas develop into reality.”
The chairman of Birmingham City Centre Partnership who is also a judge described many of the entries received as high quality and innovative:
“It is important that the city centre remains competitive in welcoming both shoppers and future retailers, and we feel this project will certainly benefit the city centre in terms of remaining attractive to prospective tenants and encouraging shoppers to explore.”
The designs by nine finalists are now installed in the windows of both city centre stores and retail units within shopping centres and an interactive map is available on the Shopping in Birmingham website which gives more details about the installations, which form a trail around the City Centre.
- Jeremy Rucker of City Dressing – a company which provides graphic and light installations for High Streets. Jeremy intends to create ‘the ultimate virtual shop’ in an empty store.
- Stitches and Hos – a community knitting group famous locally for holding regular crafting sessions at a Birmingham pub and for performing acts of guerrilla knitting on local statues and architecture. The group will be creating a hand-knitted fruit and vegetable stall at Burlington Arcade.
- Kate Bufton, an artist who upcycles unwanted books into works of art. Kate’s installation, entitled ‘Book Transformations – Library 2012’ will be on display at a retail unit in Martineau Place.
The installations will be on display from Friday 2nd November and once in place a panel will inspect them to choose one overall winner who will win £1,000 of shopping vouchers to spend in Birmingham City Centre, just in time for Christmas!