Londoners, who like to think that UK style begins and ends with them, might be surprised to discover that women in Birmingham spend more on fashion than in any other UK city. In fact, according to Nigel Godfrey of the Style Birmingham campaign, customers at the city's Harvey Nichols spend more per capita than at any other branch of this famous fashionistas' mecca - more, even, than in London.
It's a far cry from as recently as a decade ago, when busy ring roads and a 1960s, wrap-around architectural monstrosity barricaded the Bullring, the high plateau at the center of Birmingham, in an impenetrable, anti-human wall of whizzing traffic and grimy concrete.
Birmingham - The city as a work in progressToday's Bullring is a huge, buzzy city center shopping area, including covered malls, vast pedestrian areas, leading department and chain stores as well as 100 independent retailers. Its branch of Selfridges - the first for the company outside of London - is a futuristic, windowless bazaar, covered with thousands of polished aluminum disks. Perched on the edge of the Bullring, it seems to hover like a space ship over Birmingham's markets and older districts.
And the Bullring is just one of Birmingham's revitalized shopping areas. Some, like the markets and the Jewellery Quarter, have been commercial centers for hundreds of years. Others, like the Mailbox, are brand new.