Pop-up revolution? The pop-up economy is now worth £2.3bn

Lynsey Barber
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Pop-up shops are popping up everywhere - the sector grew 12.3 per cent last year, the research suggested (Source: Getty)

The trend for pop-ups, whether that be shops, bars, cinemas or even beaches, may leave some people rolling their eyes, but their success is adding billions to the UK economy.

Revenues in the pop-up retail sector grew at 12.3 per cent last year, meaning it's now worth £2.3bn annually, up on £2.1bn last year, and employs 26,000 people, new research reveals.

Shoppers are spending more time and money at the temporary spots than ever before, splurging an average of £124 a year at pop-ups, while two-fifths have been to one in the last year and almost half said they think they are a good way to revive the flagging high street.

The annual survey by EE and the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), found pop-ups account for 0.76 per cent of all retail turnover in the UK, compared to 0.62 per cent last year.

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It estimates that the UK is home to more than 10,000 pop-ups, and it's not just new businesses involved in the trend. Of established retailers, eight per cent said they had launched a pop-up in the last year and 10 per cent said they planned to in the future, as they test out new locations and products.

“Pop-up retail is continuing to become an increasingly viable platform for both people with new business ideas and for established businesses looking to engage with customers in new and innovative ways," said CEBR economist Rob Harbron. "Successful retailers increasingly need to offer customers the ability to shop when and where they want. As such, the flexibility of pop-up stores makes the format increasingly attractive. However, without appropriate investment in technology, efficiently co-ordinating a range of platforms is becoming increasingly challenging for businesses.”

Annual growth of 12.3 per cent is well ahead of that in the rest of the retail sector, which increased just 1.1 per cent last year and is expecting annual growth of around just two per cent this year, according to the Centre for Retail Research.

Earlier research from EE suggested a third of new businesses will start their life as a pop-up.

While London may have started the trend, it's those in the south west who have made the most visits to pop-ups - more than half report visiting one in the last 12 months - followed by the capital and then the west Midlands.

Read more: The death of cash: Brits pay by card and mobile instead

It's the 25-34 age group who are making the most visits and spending the most instore - more than £160 in the last year, an amount that increased more than any other age group. However, technology could be holding back many pop-ups from further success. A third of pop-up retailers are unable to process card transactions, rising to 40 per cent among small retailers.

EE is now offering a package for wannabe pop-up proprietors to be able to accept the card, along with point of sale startup Shopwave and payment device iZettle.

"The sector’s growth is driven by retailers and brands of all sizes using pop-ups to create new experiences, products, and locations for their customers," said EEs small business director Mike Tomlinson.

"With Connected Retail from EE, we’re providing 4G connected products designed specifically to help temporary and permanent retailers be even more flexible and productive – getting them online quickly, and helping them to engage with customers via social media, take payments, and manage inventory."

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