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Bullring IT is a model for future retail development

Daniel Thomas

The £500m redevelopment of Bullring shopping centre in Birmingham has produced the most technologically advanced retail site in the UK and will act as a model for future centres, its IT manager said.

Bullring, which opened its doors to the public last month, uses online technologies including internet kiosks, an intranet, SMS and instant messaging to communicate with retailers and consumers over a Cisco IP network.

Each of the 154 retailers at Bullring have been provided with a thin client terminal for sending and receiving internal communications such as security alerts and sales figures.

Bill Ives, IT project manager at Bullring and the Birmingham Alliance - a partnership between developers Hammerson, Land Securities and Henderson Global Investors, which redeveloped the site - said the use of technology is unprecedented.

"Bullring is more integrated than any other centre in the UK," he said. "Take-up on the touch screens, the terminals and the website has surpassed all expectations. They have been extremely well received by the public and retailers."

By the end of September the Bullring website had generated 11.4 million page impressions and the kiosks had been used by almost 100,000 shoppers.

Although the systems have been well-received, the roll out of the technology at the centre was difficult, Ives said.

"You have got to get user buy-in, which takes time," he said. "It is always a fight to get retailers to put new systems in place. Many of them have no idea about what the technology can do."

Future retail developments would make IT adoption mandatory, he added. "When we do it again we will make implementing the terminals part of the lease agreement, like the fire alarms. Retailers will not be allowed to open until the systems are in place," he said.

The technology
The technology at Bullring is based on a Microsoft .net architecture and content management, CRM and security software from supplier Comgenic. A Cisco-based Wi-Fi network is due to go live in the next few months.

daniel.thomas@rbi.co.uk

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