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October 2023

Ever curious about what businesses are coming to town? How about an opinion on what businesses are needed? It is human nature to be curious and to form an opinion based upon what you observe, your needs and patterns. The Birmingham Shopping District (BSD) is your source for what’s happening in Downtown Birmingham, and also the organization that helps to analyze and guide market demand and changes necessary to grow the economy.

First, let’s talk about the fun stuff. Who’s recently come to town and who’s still coming? Birmingham is very lucky to have a strong downtown with an amazing mix of businesses and a 99 percent occupancy rate for its main floor storefronts. Space is limited, but we’ve had over 30 new businesses this past year and a half, ranging from local to national retailers and services. Local boutiques and restaurants such as Zahra, Rotate Boutique, The Good Day, Steps MI, Via Manzoni, The Taco Stand Taquerie and EM are a few to mention, as well as national retailers Serena & Lily, CB2, RH, Faherty, Brilliant Earth and sweetgreen are all ones you should discover and explore.

The BSD is thoughtfully curating a business mix and consumer experience by researching, planning and implementing programs to achieve our goals, vision and consumer demand. While the BSD does not manage nor control properties and their recruitment and retention efforts, it does provide property owners and brokers with retail market data and resources to help suggest and guide the placement of ideal tenants for Downtown Birmingham. This past spring, the BSD released its findings on the business mix and initial recommendations for business recruitment in order to increase local frequency and regional attraction. These findings and recommendations are now being compared against the recent public survey conducted this past month on the community’s desires for downtown. It’s important to look at both what the community desires and what the market can support. Sometimes these are not in unison, and most often than not there are challenges to achieve the preferences. This is what shapes the recommendations.

Overall, the BSD is made up of 75 percent local businesses which is above par compared to other benchmark communities across the U.S. After reviewing the business mix data, the BSD concluded that recruiting businesses that will appeal to office workers and residents to drive daily foot traffic, such as healthy fast casual restaurants, is a high priority. Also, the BSD will begin to identify and support recruitment efforts of regional small businesses with incentives that will help fill gaps in product segments, such as women’s apparel, books and entertainment, children’s toys and hobbies. National retailers, especially in apparel, who have a significant pull-factor with a nod towards the higher-end and sophisticated audience will continue to trend well here, as well as those that provide an experience. The retail industry is experiencing a bifurcation with consumer spending increasingly polarized between high-end and value-oriented retailers. Retailers in the middle market are struggling, which is why the BSD is not currently putting forth effort in this market segment until there is a higher demand and success rate nationally. For more details on the market analysis and recommendations, go to

Creating community experiences that draw residents and visitors in to shop, dine and recreate is an important part of downtown economic development. This month, the BSD is hosting its 2nd Annual Art Walk on October 12 from 5-8 p.m. Come explore and support local artists, shops, restaurants and destinations that make Downtown Birmingham such a walkable and desirable community. Visit to find more events and programs happening in Downtown Birmingham.

Cristina Sheppard-Decius, CMSM, is the BSD Executive Director.


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