The UKs second city has shopping opportunities rivalled only by the capital, London. In recent years Birmingham has completely re-invigorated its city centre shopping areas and boasts over 1000 shops all within 20 minutes of each other. If that doesn’t sound impressive to you please bear in mind that it includes a recently opened Selfridges that is the size of many DIY warehouse stores. The city has several main shopping centres or malls, retail and whole-sale markets, Victorian arcades as well as a wealth of street shopping. The three main shopping streets are New Street, which runs from the Council House to the Rotunda; the High Street which starts at the Rotunda and Corporation Street, which is off New Street. Major shops found on these streets include; Boots – High Street, Marks & Spencer – High Street, Waterstones – New Street and House of Fraser – Corporation Street. With a history as a draper store going back to 1851, The House of Fraser on Corporation Street is still known locally by its original name of Rackhams.
In terms of shopping in Birmingham the jewel in the crown has to be the new Bullring Shopping Centre. Once an area derided even by local residents the new Bullring, which opened in 2003, has been completely modernised into a glass enclosed shopping centre to rival any in the world. Here you can shop in over 140 stores, with all the fashion, jewellery, electrical and house-hold names imaginable represented, in this shopping centre that is big enough to accommodate 26 football pitches over its four floors. The two largest occupants are Selfridges and Dabenham’s whose stores spread over all four floors of the centre. Approaching the Bullring you can see the shape and size of Selfridges by its iconic 21st century design and construction. Finding the Bullring is easy, simply look for the Rotunda tower block on New Street and then the bronze bull statue that’s where it starts. The centre opens daily at 09:30 (09:00 on Saturdays) and closes at 20:00, except Sundays when it is open 11:00 to 17:00.
As the city has developed over the last ten years several other smaller shopping centres have opened around the city. The Mailbox was once the city’s mail sorting depot, on Royal Mail Street. Transformed and opened in 2000 it is now the home to a select 50 outlets of the very highest quality. It not only contains designer fashion shops but also; bars, restaurants, hotels and a complex of flats, or rather urban living. Names that you’ll find here include; Armani, Ralph Lauren and Harvey Nichols. The Mailbox is not on the main shopping routes in the city, to get to it walk along Navigation Street, which is to the east side of New Street railway station.
Two older shopping centres in Birmingham are the Pallasades and the Pavilions. The Pallasades was originally opened in the 1960s and was part of the New Street Railway Station re-development. As such for many people arriving at New Street station by train they have to pass through the Pallasades to get out on to New Street itself. The only large stores located here is a branch of Argos and the main Woolworths for the city. The Pavilions is on the High Street and has some forty stores in it. The two largest stores here are HMV and Virgin which dominate the entrance to this shopping centre. There are also entrances from the centre into Waterstones and Marks and Spencer’s, which join on to the centre. Other shopping centres include, Priory Square which is between the High Street and Corporation Street at Bull Street. This has many small and funky independent stores alongside a few market stalls selling mainly clothes. The only major retailer here is Argos. City Plaza is between the cathedral and Corporation Street. It has a few designer shops alongside several hair and beauty salons.
Birmingham has several Victorian and Edwardian arcades which are worth visiting if only to see the splendour with which they were built, never mind the shops inside them. The main one not to miss is Great Western Arcade. Built in 1876, its design was influenced by the Crystal Palace in the Great Exhibition of 1851. With 40 retail outlets the arcade is between Colmore Row and Temple Row. The south Eastern Arcade leads on to Martineau Place, which is a small, out-door area, in between Corporation Street and the High Street. Here there are entrances to the main Birmingham branches of W H Smiths, Boots and BHS as well as a selection of smaller shops.
Apart from Farmers’ Markets and the licensed street traders in the city centre, Birmingham has four markets. The Wholesale Market covers an area of 31 hectares and has over 200 trading units. The market mainly supplies local retailers with horticulture, fish, meat and poultry. Along with the redevelopment of the Bullring shopping centre, the Bullring markets were also re-developed; all of the Bullring markets are located around the shopping centre. The Indoor Market - has 140 stalls and whilst being famous for selling fish, you can buy just about anything here for the home or yourself. The Indoor market is open daily from 09:00 to 17:30 except Sundays. The Rag Market, as the name implies, comprises 350 stalls and a few shops selling all manner of materials and clothes making accessories. The Rag market is open Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturdays at the same times as the Open Market. Birmingham was first granted a market charter in 1166, since when the Open Market in the Bull Ring has been a permanent fixture. Like the nearby indoor market it sells a range of goods to meet everyone’s needs in its 130 stalls. The market works Tuesday to Saturday 09:00 to 17:00.