Two years ago, Philip Green put out a challenge to UK property companies: lower rents for new, creative, young businesses or high streets and shopping malls will become bland and boring. Backing an ever-upward economic trajectory, they did not heed his warning, with the consequence that there is now very little out there that is new.
However, with consumer meltdown looming the other side of Christmas, rents cannot but fall, which will surely work in the favour of new brands and entrepreneurs.
Once upon a time, temporary shops were for “pile-it-high, sell-it-cheap” merchants. Now we have a new phenomenon: pop-up shops – lovely boutiques selling luxury, or unusual goods (often craft and handmade items) that reflect the times we live in. Thank goodness we have passed the trend of exclusive meaning expensive! What we are all desperate for is the sense of discovery and of feeling special by buying something that perhaps no-one else has. We now have the chance again to discover something that we used to call the “best kept secret in town”.
Comme des Garcons has led the way with their guerrilla stores, which pop up in unusual places for limited periods. (At the moment, there is a great one in Glasgow). Check out the website, which is a treat in itself.
A friend of mine, Tyler Brule, founder of the magazines Wallpaper and, most recently, Monocle, has so much energy and can just about turn his hand to anything – this time a pop-up shop to stop a vacant florists being taken over by a big chain. It’s fabulous! It sells magazines and gifts, and has much to do with his personal passion for travel and all things new. Meanwhile, the Eco Shop in Westbourne Grove is selling fair trade, ethical and organic products, and has some really great gifts for Christmas – it’s open only until the December 24.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not just harking back to the past here. I love the experience of shopping online, Amazon and Net-A-Porter being two of my favourites. However, I sincerely hope that more one-off, pop-up stores mushroom all over the country and that, if only for months at a time, in a handful of locations and for a lucky few shoppers, Sir Philip gets his wish of a more interesting bricks-and-mortar shopping experience.
If you know of any stores popping up, please let met know on firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a restful weekend – don’t eat too much to leave space for the Christmas turkey!