Archives for category: Retail

On Saturday 13th May (12pm – 6pm), the inaugural Independent Birmingham Festival will be taking place at The Bond, Digbeth, showcasing the very best of Birmingham’s independent restaurants, bars, pubs, street food traders, local retailers and artists, designers, producers, in a day-long celebration. There will be an ‘ace programme’ of music and other entertainment.

Independent Birmingham has created the Independent Birmingham Membership Card. The IBcard is now owned by over 15,000 people, acting as a key to the city and entitling cardholders to fantastic discounts and deals at over 95 of the very best independents in Birmingham. The website and the Independent Birmingham Membership Card both act to encourage the people of Birmingham to support local, celebrate the unique and to Believe In Birmingham. Only those independents included on the Independent Birmingham Membership Card will be trading at the event.

Around 70,000-80,000 different people visit the Independent Birmingham website a month, along with a large social media following so we decided that the time has come to celebrate Brum’s marvellous independent culture in a way we’ve never done before.

More news as it comes on our events page.

Tickets cost just £8 (children under 12 go free – no ticket required) and can be purchased here.

 

 

 

 

 

Jonathan Guthrie, Financial Times Enterprise Editor reported that canals could regain their role as conduits for trade – because of gridlock on the motorways that superseded them, according to a study for West Midlands councils, the Highways Agency and British Waterways, which found “considerable potential for the reintroduction of freight on the canals”.

He added that the findings will resonate with any driver who has ever watched narrowboats putter past on nearby canals while stuck on a motorway. A canal freight shuttle service between the Black Country and Birmingham could move 175,000 tonnes annually and save 61,750 urban lorry miles, the study found.

From our database, 2001-2016:

  • In Bromage N, Supply Management (UK) 5 Jul 2001 Vol 6 No 14: p. 34 (2 pages) there is a reference to transporting cardboard waste from London to a recycling mill in Birmingham.
  • In 2002 cardboard waste was carried from Leamore Business Parks (Walsall) via canal to a recycling plant in Saltley, Birmingham.
  • West Midlands Waterways joined forces with Brumcan, the Birmingham based community recycling business in 2004 for ‘The Big Recycle’ and moved waste textiles by boat from Brumcan’s headquarters in Saltley along the Birmingham Mainline Canal to Black Country Rags in Greets Green. The boat, named Aurega, then delivered glass to Birmingham’s waste transfer station at Lifford Lane.
  • Lynne Jones MP, for Birmingham Selly Oak, issued a press release: Support Water Freight; 11.08.06, calling for government action to shift the transport of freight from our roads to our waterways, supporting a Parliamentary motion backing the sector.
  • In 2007 Marks & Spencer employed barges to take waste cardboard boxes and packaging from its stores in London along the 157-mile Grand Union Canal to a recycling plant in Birmingham.
  • The 2007 West Midlands Freight Action Plan clearly identified 78 businesses in the Birmingham Study that have the potential for transporting waste & recycling, building & construction materials, steel and retail goods. It also identified 90 clusters of industrial estates and retail parks, 49 wharfs and 12 freight development sites.
  • Birmingham to the River Lee: in 2008 Richard Horne and Tim Collier loaded narrowboats Arundel and Betelgeuse with 110 steel piles, weighing 43.79 tonnes, from the company ALE Piling at Tyseley to be delivered to Lee Valley Marina at Walthamstow.
  • ALE Piling in Tyseley gave a barge company a contract to move steel piles from Birmingham to Walthamstow earlier that year. Progress was slowed through the Solihull area by silt, sunken tree boughs, supermarket trolleys and bicycles in the water. (CBOA newsletter)
  • Heathrow announced (2016) that it would accept, and in some cases exceed, all the environmental targets set out in the Airports Commission report. To this end Nick Platts, head of cargo, said he had been considering low-emission onward transport for freight, including using rail and barges on the nearby Grand Union Canal (Paddington Branch) which links central London with Birmingham.

Caption: ‘No congestion down here’

As Jonathan Guthrie, Financial Times Enterprise Editor reported, the 2007research highlighted a series of environmental benefits from moving freight. Studies agree that waterborne transport is quieter, cleaner & more fuel efficient, reducing CO2 emissions by 75-80% compared with road transport. TV’s Waterworld programme made the startling claim that in one day a lorry used more fuel than a working barge would use in a year.

Next: City could use watertaxis – operating in other UK cities – to take passengers off congested roads

 

 

 

“Banks have been bailed out by taxpayers and the state continues to shower enormous gifts upon them”, thunders Professor Prem Sikka. “Despite this banks show no sense of social responsibility and continue to close local branches, leaving many without adequate financial services”.

The rate of branch closures accelerates and over the past five years more than 430 communities have lost their last bank.

Recently a reader saw a local butcher unable to make a sale because he hadn’t enough change to give his customer. He explained that two Lloyds Bank branches nearby by had closed, and now the nearest one – two miles away – had closed.

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Lloyds Lewes branch now closed

She remembered that the Post Office had offered routine services to the customers of Santander and the Co-op for some years but was not able to tell the butcher that this extended to his bank.

As he does not use a computer she searched on his behalf and found out that, during the days of a slightly kinder coalition government, the impact of these closures was mitigated when a deal was co-ordinated by Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable.

In 2015, reportedly under Government pressure, the country’s major high street banks signed a pact  that allowed all their personal customers  and businesses with fewer than 50 employees access their banks at their local post office – putting the 11,500-strong Post Office network at the heart of local communities.

This move meant that bank customers are able to put cash and cheques into current accounts, check on balances and withdraw cash.

As this relatively young man had no idea these services existed and did not appear to know how to access information, one wonders how many small traders are struggling with cash transactions because they don’t realise that there are still some services available – unless of course further post office closures take place.

 

 

 

The small but vibrant suburb of Stirchley is being invaded by supermarkets in a manner reminiscent of the long-resisted Asda development in ‘supermarket capital’ Shirley, which has sadly failed to deliver its undertaking to regenerate the high street.

In Stirchley, already served by a large Co-operative store, Aldi has applied for permission to build on a site less than a mile away and a Tesco store is being built nearby.

Two weeks ago the council’s planning committee had sensibly voted to reject plans to knock down the Fitness First gym and bowling alley in Pershore Road in order to build a Lidl store.

Many councillors and residents argue that the site would add to traffic problems and that knocking down a popular gym, the only one in the area, for yet another foodstore, sends out the wrong message.

It is now reported that officials fear the council would be vulnerable to a costly legal appeal by the supermarket.

The majority of councillors have reversed their decision, agreeing with officials’ advice that a refusal would not stand up to a challenge and voted by six to three in favour of the Lidl plan.

Is the well-being and preference of local residents less important than building yet another supermarket?

Is devolution a hollow undemocratic sham and corporate rule a reality?

See pages about Stirchley on this site

First response by email: “But how else will the starving people of Stirchley eat without another supermarket in the area?”

 

 

 Photographer: Patrick Willcocks

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Christmas is fast approaching and the pressure is on to find original, interesting or unusual gifts. If you either make or want to buy quality locally-made items, come to The Old Print Works on Saturday 3rd December for our Christmas Market – at 506, Moseley Road, Balsall Heath, Birmingham, B12 9AH.

christmas-fair

 To book a £10 or £20 stall either phone Mel on 07887946885 or book directly here.

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 stirchley-bathsThe Birmingham Cookbook was launched at Stirchley Baths earlier this month 

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In his foreword, Birmingham born and bred chef, Glynn Purnell, explains that this book highlights our regional food, from the provenance of ingredients from farms on the outskirts of the city, through to breakfasts on offer in suburban café, lunches from delis and ‘proper gastro pub fare from real ale houses’.

birgit-and-helpers

The event was hosted by Birgit Kehrer of ChangeKitchen, a social enterprise which offers award-winning locally sourced organic vegetarian and vegan food. Two of her helpers (above right) welcomed and served all-comers – the first to arrive being a representative from Citylicious Birmingham. Citylicious is a dining guide which offers a choice of restaurants and introduces the newest artisan producers and focusses on provenance – farm to plate.

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Sanjay (right) from Spice Kitchen, has set up a family business which offers fresh, authentic spices by mail order. He explained:

“We source the spices in their raw state, like cloves, curry leaves and cardamom pods, then we roast and grind them by hand. Everything is fresh, made in small batches within a week or so of the order, unlike the stuff in shops which has been hanging around for a long time and gone stale”.

Orders are coming in briskly after Spice Kitchen exhibited at the recent Speciality & Fine Food Fair 2016 held at Olympia.

b-kerre-3Kerre Chen from Meze Publishing spoke about the Birmingham Cookbook to the gathering. She conducts public and press relations for Meze, which has published sixteen regional cookbooks. Meze Publishing recently won ‘best new-comer’ at the Independent Publishing Awards and issued the cookbook in collaboration with Dine Birmingham. Contributions came from Adams, Purnell’s, Simpsons and independents such as Cherry Reds, Loaf and Original Patty Men.

Tom Maher is co-founder of The Original Patty Men, another independent, which was often seen at Birmingham’s street food events like Digbeth Dining Club, serving locally sourced longhorn beef burgers. OPM has now opened a Digbeth base in Shaw’s Passage in one of the railway bridge arches (below).

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There were people representing a good ‘mix’ of establishments from different areas including, Stirchley, Edgbaston, Digbeth, Ladypool Road, Kings Heath and Wythall.

b-nathan-eadesThey included the following contributors:

Nathan Eades (left), the new head chef at Simpson’s, Edgbaston’s newly refurbished Grade II listed Michelin starred restaurant

Sadie Williams – formerly with MAC, who came from Beckett’s Farm, Wythall, Orange Kitchen Cookery School .

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Sadie came with her colleagues Hannah (marketing) and Rachel (conferences)

b-ali-imdad-headAli Imdad, Great British Bake Off contestant, opened a 60 seat dessert parlour in Ladypool Road last year.

Artisan desserts offers a mix of Asian and traditional English fare in an Asian area, where people don’t just want to have a kulfi after their curry – and some customers travel from as far afield as Manchester.

And Tracy Fletcher (below, far left) from the Kitchen Garden in Kings Heath came with Charlotte from Stirchley. She joined others who attended the launch, relaxing after the event.

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More detail about the cookbook is given on Spice Kitchen’s website.

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Thanks are due to Shirley Institute’s Ann (cameraman) and Malcolm Turner (escort & moral support) for stepping in at the last moment to take photographs.

 

 

 

The Bartons Arms was built for £12,000 in 1901 on the site of a former pub as the flagship of Mitchell and Butlers’ brewery estate by Mr. Brassington of James and Lister Lea. In 1976 it was listed as a Grade 2* building. This architectural practice designed a number of Birmingham’s most recognisable public houses, some of which are now listed buildings.

bartons arms stairsThe arched entrance to a Thai restaurant – dining room below

bartons arms dining room

The history page on the Bartons Arms website records that Vesta Tilley, Marie Lloyd, Sid Field, Enrico Caruso and Charlie Chaplin ‘drank and lodged’ there after appearing at the adjacent Aston Hippodrome. Laurel and Hardy once stayed there and were photographed serving beer from behind the bar. More recently patrons of the Bartons Arms have been joined by Nigel Kennedy and Ozzy Osbourne. The Birmingham Mail adds that one night, during the 2011 Birmingham riots, the pub was looted, windows were smashed, and fires started, but prompt action by the manager, Wichai Thumjaron, extinguished them.

bartons arms bar

The neo-Jacobean design of the terracotta, brick and stone exterior, with its foursquare clock tower, is said to have been inspired by Aston Hall. Many original features have been retained: mahogany woodwork, stained and engraved windows and mirrors, snob screens which allowed middle class drinkers to see working class drinkers in an adjacent bar, but not to be seen by them, a sweeping wrought-iron staircase and wall to wall Minton Hollins tiles with glazed decorative patterns and some large tiled murals. The cellar in which barrels of beer are stored runs the length of the building and it is said that a tunnel used to run from the cellar of the original pub to Aston Hall.

In 1974, a film was made in which Bob Warman recorded a tour of the Bartons Arms and interviewed Peter Hartley of Mitchells and Butlers. It may be seen here.

bartons armsThe Bartons Arms lies on the A34 – a road which separated the city’s two main gangs in Lozells and Aston. Drug-dealing in the area was rife and it was reported that between 1999 – when the pub closed – and 2005, gun crime in Birmingham rose by 500%.

After three years disuse, the Bartons Arms was bought in 2002 by Oakham Ales, based in Peterborough. It has the largest ‘brewpub’ in Europe, the Brewery Tap. Paul Hook, who bought Oakham Ales in 1995, first saw the Bartons Arms as a science student at Aston University and restored the building.

It reopened in 2003, serving real ale, traditional ciders and Thai food, a passion of Paul’s partner, Patcharee Shaweewan.

 

 

Asda/Parkgate, according to today’s email message from a local entrepreneur born and bred in Shirley. We add: Asda/Shirley Advance/Parkgate, with the backing of the political party controlling Solihull Council.

Powergen

Our correspondent writes, “I went to the bank in Shirley yesterday and as predicted on your website, Parkgate has killed Shirley. Many of the shops are now empty and even the charity shops are closing. I think I’d rather have vaguely competent European bureaucrats than inept and or self-serving local politicians”.

It has been a long, slow process, death by a thousand cuts

The first blow: CEGB/Powergen (above) relocated after being refused permission to expand; hundreds of its employees then no longer had lunch and did their shopping in Shirley. The building was allowed to decay and much of the site will be used to further Asda/Shirley Advance property development.

shirley park logoThen came a twenty year struggle against the wishes of over 90% of Shirley residents (who responded to a poll overseen by the Electoral Reform Society). The council finally made the development financially viable by a gift of public parkland on which to build aspirational housing – not for those really in need on the borough’s housing register.

Our correspondent sent the graphic (above) republished in the West Midlands aggregator website and the text of the original 2014 Green Party article.

Measures which could help Shirley

shirley woolworths logo

  • Set up a decent indoor market in the former Woolworth’s building which would attract many stall-holders and customers from surrounding areas who might spend in the few remaining High St businesses.
  • In May, people in all Solihull’s threatened locations should vote to increase the main opposition Green Party and give them control of Solihull Council.
  • Then nationwide vote in a government which would control the exorbitant rents landlords charge. In Shirley it is not unusual for landlords to ask for £30,000 in rent per annum for small shops and overhead flats.

Should the well-being of thousands suffer to maintain the profits of a few absentee landlords and property developers?

 

mattborroclub

On the 10th of January in the Sunday Times, Kiki Loizou wrote about Borroclub.co.uk founded by Matt Dredger: “Ventures such as Matt Dredger’s rental website Borroclub have led experts to proclaim a new entrepreneurial age for Britain”.

She described him stumbling across unused tools and appliances in his garage and dreaming up a website that allowed him to lease them to neighbours. He explained: “A few years ago there was nowhere someone like me could go to work on a business while learning from other people. There was no one-stop shop for people starting up who needed advice on things like finance or IT”.

mattborroclub logoMatt used £9,000 of his savings to start Borroclub in Birmingham last year. His venture lets users lease anything, from golf clubs to marquees, from locals instead of buying the kit at a much higher cost.

When listing items online at Borroclub.co.uk, the lender sets the price per day, plus a security deposit. When the item is returned and its condition is confirmed, the deposit is returned. Both the lender and the borrower can decide whether the item is to be handed over at their home, or if they prefer, Borroclub can collect and deliver it. He notes: “In the past couple of weeks, our borrowers have saved over £1,300 and in the process, over 300kg of CO2 has also been saved”.

mattborroclub lwmheader

In August, Karen Leach wrote on the LWM blog, I was happy to discover Borroclub, a good example of a sharing economy initiative, last week whilst looking for a large gazebo for my mother’s Significant Birthday picnic. Despite it being a very new venture, they even actually had a gazebo listed already – so I’m convinced this enterprise has legs….”

Other items featured on Borroclub include a sewing machine that would cost £52 to buy, but can be loaned for £5 per day, a jet washer and a hedger trimmer, both with original values of £130, but can be rented for £5 per day. A roof box with an original value of £270 can be loaned for only £2 per day, while a tent with a value of £600 can be borrowed for £5 per day. Other popular items include folding beds, pet carry cages, life jackets, an air compressor and lawn scarifier.

Borroclub is especially useful for those living in apartments and homes with no garages and limited storage space. It enables people to engage with their community in a practical, helpful and mutually beneficial way. Lenders often give guidance to borrowers on how to use an item.

mattborroclub2 innovation campusInnovation Birmingham Campus (Birmingham Science Park Aston, now wholly owned by Birmingham City Council) launched Borroclub as part of its Entrepreneurs for the Future programme, which provides business incubation to tech start-ups. The benefits include up to nine months free office space, telecoms, meeting rooms and superfast broadband. In addition, there is continued mentoring from the Entrepreneurs in Residence, regular visiting expert sessions, a series of workshops and events, networking opportunities and peer-to-peer support.

All this support comes free of charge; Innovation Birmingham does not take an equity stake in the start-up businesses, as enrolment onto the Entrepreneurs for the Future programme is part-funded by a grant from the European Regional Development Fund, which – aiming to strengthen economic and social cohesion in the European Union – invests in innovation and research, the digital agenda, support for small and medium-sized enterprises and the low-carbon economy.

small bus sat header

Today MP Steve McCabe is backing local independent businesses across his constituency as part of this year’s Small Business Saturday.

Five million independent stores are hoping to benefit from “Small Business Saturday”, when retailers, local authorities and large sponsors team up to promote small businesses, which account for almost two in every three shops in the UK.

Some local authorities have suspended parking regulations for the day and there have been sponsored advertising slots on prime time TV and other media to promote independent shopping.

This is a key shopping day in the year in the run-up to Christmas and the MP is encouraging local people to shop locally in small firms as part of Small Business Saturday and aims to give a long-term boost to trade and a lift to the high streets.

Independents named on his website include local Indian restaurant, Dilshad; motor repair garage, Tyreco; independent wine store, Stirchley Wines and Spirits, the recently opened P Café in Stirchley and Vegan Shop in Kings Heath.

Steve McCabe said that he is proud to have such a choice of local unique and independent businesses in his constituency. We should do all we can to thank them for the vital contribution they make to the local economy, adding to the local community and boosting diversity on the High Street.

He hopes to build on the success achieved with Small Business Saturday in the last two years and believes the campaign is a great way of raising awareness and helping boost trade in the run up to Christmas.