The PopUp Britain scheme, now open for business: Is this the future of British Retail?

With high streets across the UK struggling to keep their unique identity, there have never been more schemes and initiatives designed to breathe the life back in to UK retail.  Love her or loathe her, TV personality Mary Portas has certainly helped to raise awareness of the importance of small businesses in the UK. However, there is a lot of hard work going on across the UK that is making a much more tangible difference to the grassroots success of small British businesses.

One of these schemes is PopUp Britain, an initiative by Start Up Britain that is helping to build Britain’s small businesses by giving online retailers an opportunity to experience retailing on the high street for a period of three months.  The project takes on companies that can’t afford shop premises in their own right, and creates a shop branded PopUp Britain.

The first shop, located in Richmond on the South West London and Surrey border, is situated in a prime location opposite the busy railway station and will house six emerging businesses at a time. Each will share rent for a fortnight and after two weeks, a new set of six businesses will take up residence in the shop. The businesses are naturally responsible for generating sales and income, but also have the experience of meeting customers face to face and gaining valuable feedback through direct communication with their customers.  Throughout their stay, the businesses will receive advice on different aspects of running a retail operation from Intuit, Pay Pal, AXA, Dell as well as the shop landlord Connaught and Whitehall Capital.

Emma Jones is leading the project and has made it all possible by working closely with Richmond Council, landlords such as Gearoid Foyle, Lord Young who is enterprise advisor to the PM, and ‘Retail Champion’ Clare Rayner. The facts speak for themselves Clare says: “With over 250,000 independent retailers across the UK, Britain’s independent retail sector is actually doing rather well – although though 12,500 closed last year, a further 15,000 opened that is a net gain of 2,500 independent retailers compared to a net gain of just 1000 by the multiples.”

Despite the financial commitment, opening a shop could be well worth the risk as the average customer of a multi-channel retailer is worth 130 per cent of the average customer of a single channel retailer – in other words, your customers spend more with you if you have both a retail website and an outlet.

So it seems Emma Jones is right when she says “StartUp High Street gives small start-up businesses a fantastic opportunity to think big and become a part of their local high street. It’s great for small businesses, great for the landlord and also for the high street.”

So watch this space; the atmosphere in the shop certainly convinced me that this could well become a template that could be taken all over the UK.

The first PopUp Britain shop is located at 2 Kew Road, TW9 2NQ directly opposite Richmond railway station. The shop will be open for seven days a week. Learn more about the first six retailers in the Richmond Branch of PopUp Britain here.

  • Tier One Clothing – designers of quality clothing for smart professionals to wear in and out of the workplace
  • Elephant Branded – handmade bag, wallets and purses from Africa and Asia made with local recycled materials
  • Maria Allen Jewellery – handmade jewellery inspired by typography, travel and nature. You can read Maria’s start-up story on Enterprise Nation.
  • Morrow Outfitters – the revival of a 100-year-old family hosiery business designing and selling high-quality socks manufactured in England
  • Vulpine – high quality, stylish cycle clothing for wear on and off the bike.

How can I get involved?

  • If you’d like the opportunity to become part of StartUp High Street and take up a position in a PopUpBritain shop, visit the campaign page on the StartUp Britain website.
  • The campaign will also be giving small retailers the opportunity to pitch their products to John Lewis. Details will be available on the StartUpBritain website in due course.






There is 1 comment for this article
  1. Bobby Stearns at 10:18 am

    Thanks for writing this James, an inspiring project that allows people with few material resources but lots of creativity and passion to get involved in their high street. Good luck everyone involved.

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