Ian Anderson is head of retail planning at CBRE.
Pop-ups are no longer simply used to fill empty high-street units. Once a novelty, pop-up retailers have prospered where others have not, capitalising upon the omnichannel revolution and people’s never-ending desire for something fresh and unique.
Pop-ups present the perfect incubator space for new businesses that have a strong online offer but need a physical presence to garner wider interest. Often the transitory nature of the space further enhances online exposure through social media. It can also offer a stepping stone towards more permanent accommodation and the chance to build an omnichannel offer across a network of units. The Cambridge Satchel Company, for example, opened its first store in Covent Garden in February 2013 after a pop-up there in December 2012.
More than 100 independent clothing stores across the UK’s top 500 towns closed during the first half of this year, according to figures from the Local Data Company and British Independent Retailers Association. There is no question, then, that town centres are still in a precarious position: the economy remains fragile and retailers face challenges from both out of town and online. Pop-ups benefit the high street by creating new interest and driving footfall.
The number of pop-up shops is set to grow by 8.4% over the next year, according to a study by phone retailer EE and economic consultancy CEBR. The report suggests that there are more than 9,000 pop-up retail destinations in the UK, employing more than 23,000 people.
Transport for London has recently experimented by opening spaces to small retail businesses via pop-up platform Appear. Another successful pop-up operation is Boxpark in Shoreditch, where brands, hairdressers and those in the food and drinks business can set up in stripped and refitted shipping containers.
The pop-up concept is now mainstream, but it must maintain its impact by offering a constantly revolving retail experience for shoppers. That way, high streets will continue to benefit from the innovation offered by a stream of competitive individual brands.