Retailers deserve praise for reaction to the riots

Fashion and shopping blogger Emma Iannarilli praises Birmingham, Wolverhampton and West Bromwich's retailers for their fight-back after the riots.

Last Thursday, I was a guest at a glittering fashion show held to celebrate the Autumn/Winter 2011/12 collections at Harvey Nichols, in Birmingham’s Mailbox writes Emma Iannarilli.

It was a fantastic evening and probably one of the busiest fashion shows I have ever attended in the City.

And what made the evening even more special was that this was exactly a month since some of those same Harvey Nichols staff had been forced to spend most of the night barricaded within those shop walls, as rioters wrecked havoc throughout the city.

The spectacular show sent a clear message to all - Birmingham is open for business!

Anyone who had experience of being in the City in the days immediately after the riots will talk of the eerie stillness of a city deserted.

Quiet shopping malls, empty streets with windows and doors boarded up and a general feeling of unease hung over the main shopping areas, with shops closing early amid fears that the rioters would return.

The Bullring was quick to act to get the shoppers back into the city, offering free parking to all in the weekend after the riots, but still the fear remained for many.

But gradually, things have returned to normal, and there has been a growing excitement about autumn in Birmingham.

Many stores have hosted special shopping evenings and promotions to tempt even the most prudent shopper, these have included Selfridges, Reiss, Warehouse and Molton Brown. Last weekend saw the return of ‘Artfest’, which bought a fantastic range of independent art and craft artisans to the streets.

Things are set to become even more exciting for Birmingham, as Gok Wan returns to the city on Thursday for live filming of his Channel 4 show, and next week sees Style Birmingham - a three-day fashion spectacular that will take in all of Birmingham’s shopping destinations.

Thousands of fashion fans are expected to descend on the city to enjoy a range of fashion shows, demonstrations and special offers.

And it’s not just Birmingham fighting back. Wolverhampton is hosting a special Clarins Beauty Party in Boots on 27th September, which promises to be a glamorous evening for all involved.

JD Sports, Bon Marche, New Look and Vision Express are amongst other stores hosting promotions to entice shoppers, some of which are exclusive to Wolverhampton.

West Bromwich has also had a couple of really exciting weekend’s thanks to’ The Public’, the much maligned Arts Centre that is finally finding its feet as a live music and arts venue. The Home of Metal exhibition has been a big success, and the Metal Weekender was the perfect way to introduce folk to the venue.

I think our towns and cities that took such a battering deserve praise and every success for the way they have responded to the riots.

They are working hard to erase the memories of what was a sorry episode in our retail story.

Emma Iannarilli writes a fashion and shopping blog at www.fashion-mommy.com