Steve Hewlett

It’s been some month for Birmingham and especially the retail sector so the perfect time to catch up with Steve Hewlett of Retail Birmingham BID

Please introduce yourself

I am Steve Hewlett, Retail Birmingham BID manager. Previously I worked for City Centre Partnership. I’m Birmingham ‘born and bred’ and proud of it. I’m passionate about the city and the great people that live and work here.

What does your organisation do?

Retail Birmingham is a Business Improvement District representing more than 400 business members in the retail core of the city centre, which relates to over 750 shops, bars, restaurants and businesses. We deliver additional services and support to BID members. This includes region-wide marketing and digital promotion through our consumer facing portals Shopping In Birmingham and major city events such as Style Birmingham Live. We work in close partnership with Birmingham City Council, West Midlands Police and other BIDs to keep the city centre clean and safe.

Is Brum a good place to do business?

It’s a terrific place for shopping and business in general. Everyone knows the stat now that with John Lewis joining the city’s retail line-up we’ll be the only city outside London to have all five department stores within five minutes walk of each other. We are very much a ‘flagship’ city for shopping with major retailers having significant stores across the city centre. Add to that an eclectic mix of more than 100 independents and the massive investment in transport infrastructure, we’ve got it all together now…. there’s no need to shop anywhere else!

What are your biggest gripes with it?

Having to go through the disruption of the transport and energy improvements in the city centre has been difficult for everyone including the retailers.

How do you feel your clients see the city?

We know that people like shopping in the city centre – we attract footfall of more than 1.6 million people a week. The figure is significantly higher at Christmas. And there are lots of new independent bars and boutiques popping up all the time which makes Birmingham feel really special.

Does Birmingham offer any particular advantages as a destination for business?

Our central location is a distinct advantage which will only get better with the expanded New Street station and Midland Metro extension. Plus, we have a lot of talented people in the city. Over the years we’ve hosted many representatives from other cities and towns across the UK and Europe, who’ve come here to see ‘how we do it’.

What should our priorities be as a city?

To keep ‘banging the drum’ about the city, attracting people and businesses to experience what the city is like. Staying positive, keeping a pride in the city and investing in the future.

If you had £1bn to spend on improving Brum what would you do with it?

There’s lots I’d do but above all keep improving, making Birmingham a truly world class city and investing in our young people – creating new retail start-up businesses. Attract major worldwide events to the city – I once sold programmes at the Birmingham Super Prix – I’d bring that back! I’d restore and clean all of the old buildings in the city centre, protecting our city’s heritage. I’d also create a huge piece of iconic Birmingham artwork near the proposed HS2 station that could also be seen from the M6!