I watched M&S close on Birmingham High Street and it left me fearing for city centre shops

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I paid a visit to the ever changing Birmingham city centre High Street on the day the landmark M&S store closed its doors ahead of moving to a smaller venue in the Bullring

Birmingham's city centre high street has seen a number of big changes in recent years, with many well known shops closing and new businesses moving in.

The landmark Marks and Spencer store is the latest retail giant to close its doors on the High Street, as a new era for the company begins after its new store opened in the Bullring on Tuesday morning.

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Like many city centres across the country, Birmingham has seen a fair few empty units prop up following the sudden departures of household names. I headed down to the city centre on the day M&S closed its doors forever on the High Street.

Despite the German Market's stalls bringing a November buzz to the city, it's easy to notice just how much has changed in the city centre in recent years. In 2019, Birmingham said goodbye to the John Lewis store in Grand Central, the old Primark by the Britannia Hotel closed in the same year to make way for the world's biggest just down the street, Specsavers relocated around the corner to New Street, with other retail chains such as H&M's Monki opening on the high street.

The city's House of Fraser store in Corporation Street also closed its top three floors earlier this year to become an outlet store, with only 33 of the retail giant's stores remaining in the UK. The footwear brand Wellgosh opened in the former Jack Wills store but closed its doors less than just a year later.

As one shopper called Mike told me: "I think rent is too high for many high street shops, and people can’t make a living.” The likes of Waterstones, Boots and Levi can still be found thriving on the high street, but more new businesses have opened in the Bullring. As well as M&S, Footasylum, a new Nike Rise Concept store as well as fashion brands such as Tessuti are all due to open in the city's main shopping centre this year.

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Marks and Spencer closed its doors on Birmingham's High StreetMarks and Spencer closed its doors on Birmingham's High Street
Marks and Spencer closed its doors on Birmingham's High Street

And a number of entertainment venues such as the F1 Arcade and the boutique bowling complex Lane7 are giving Brummies even more activities to enjoy in the city centre.

But some feel as though the high street is losing out. One shopper said to me: “It feels like parts of the city centre are falling away. This (M&S) is being transferred into the Bullring, which on one hand is is good - but the High Street has become more dead looking, which is a bit sad. It feels like the magnetism of Birmingham is going down hill a bit.”

After a walk around the city centre, I then paid a visit to the High Street's M&S store on its final day of trading.

The store itself was still very busy as shoppers rushed inside for one last time. The shop, of course, had less items than usual on its shelves. The food hall was particularly busy as a number of food items were on offer, and some clothing items looked more scattered around than usual as staff prepared to clear the premises, but the store was busy right up until 4pm, which was when it closed for good.

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Hundreds of customers went into the store during its last couple of hours in business. This M&S has been one of the High Street’s most popular shops over the years, with many locals using it for their weekly food shop and to buy clothes and gifts for friends and family.

At around 3.30pm, as the shop’s staff prepared to close for good, it was sad to see the city landmark emptying during the last half an hour.

As a staff member announced on the tannoy that the store would be closing its doors in ten minutes, the High Street shop began to clear as the shutters were pulled down for the very last time, with customers saying goodbye to a store which has been part of daily life for Brummies for a number of years.

Although it's great to see the Bullring thriving with a number of new and exciting businesses opening in the shopping centre, I agree with Mike that the high street is starting to look a little run down, and the closure of one of the street's biggest stores with no sign of it being replaced is a concern.

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