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Vlogger James Charles causes traffic jams as Morphe store opens

Published
today Jan 28, 2019
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If anyone remains unconvinced about the impact of social media stars on the appeal of specific brands, the opening event for the new Morphe Cosmetics store in Birmingham should change their minds.


James Charles



American vlogger James Charles, whose YouTube Channel has almost 14 million subscribers, brought the city centre to a standstill with roads gridlocked as thousands of fans flocked to see the 19-year-old at the Bullring shopping centre. Some drivers even abandoned their cars.

It was his first visit to Britain, which clearly helped drive the huge interest, with fans coming from all over the country.

The problem became clear very early with an estimated 8,000 fans –most of them teenage girls – turning up hours before he was due to appear and the police and security having a major headache to deal with.

Many of the parents who had driven their kids to the event found that their cars were stuck in the traffic and they couldn't get away even if they wanted to. Because the organisers and police had underestimated the extent of the crowd that would turn up, there were no contingency plans in place and traffic jams lasted up to eight hours on what would have usually been expected to be a busy Sunday shopping day towards the end of the clearance sale season.

Claims that traffic lights were faulty were quickly dismissed so we have to assume that the chaos was purely a reaction to Charles’ appearance.

A Birmingham City Council spokesman later said that the local authority would learn from the event and would analyse the data to see what steps can be taken in the future.

Meanwhile Charles said it was the biggest such session he had ever done. In the event, he was only there for a very brief ceremony in which he cut the ribbon on the store at 4pm. After that he took part in a private meet-and-greet session with 250 competition winners. 

It’s unclear whether the presence of thousands of Gen Z consumers at the mall for most of the day would have boosted or dented spending figures at other shops in the centre, although it's likely to have been the latter. We do know that the Bullring had to close its escalators at one point for safety reasons.

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