Pop-up retailing: Easier than ever but beware lack of focus

Tom Welsh
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THE pop-up shop has (ironically) become an almost permanent fixture on the high street. Also known as guerilla stores, the idea of intentionally opening a retail space for a short period of time was once the preserve of edgy brands like Comme Des Garcons (the Japanese fashion company which launched its first pop-up store in Berlin in 2004). But big retailers are now getting in on the act. Tesco set up two temporary shops in London last summer: one showcasing its budget clothing line F&F; the other selling groceries. John Lewis recently opened a pop-up store in Exeter to act as a click and collect hub.

With the move mainstream, the purpose of pop-up retailing may have become confused. The initial intention was brand development, not stock shifting – or at least to test an unfamiliar product or to showcase a service in a different way. Some now argue that the pop-up phenomenon has lost its momentum. But if you think your business could still gain from the trend, the practicalities are becoming easier.

In the US, two companies, PopUpInsider and Storefront, have begun to matchmake short-term tenants and landlords. 3Space is a London-based twist to the idea. It takes empty commercial properties and makes them available to charities, community groups and social enterprises. PopUp Britain, run by the StartUp Britain campaign, has several stores available to rent by startup entrepreneurs. Its most recent (on the King’s Road) has the capacity to house 12 startups at a time, each paying £200 for a two week stint to cover costs.

Perhaps best of all, PopUp Britain has collaborated with SNR Denton, the law firm, to create a pop-up lease template that can be downloaded for free from the former’s website. And given that the national town centre vacancy rate in the UK was 10.9 per cent in January, according to the British Retail Consortium, arguably more landlords may be willing to lease out their premises on a short-term contract.

Tom Welsh is business features editor at City A.M. @TWWelsh