Willing landlords are the key, says our own Rosie Cann of Popupspace. “For many years I worked for private landlords, and was always keen to negotiate pop-up style deals on the empty properties I managed. I never saw the sense in a shop sitting empty for any period of time. The benefits to a landlord of having a property occupied are so much broader than just the rental income.”
With 20 shops shutting for good every day, one in six now stand vacant in the UK’s high streets compared to one in twenty before the recession, so Miss Cann has a point.
Dan Thompson, who published the Pop-up People report earlier in the year having spent time working worth small business in the South of England is still not sure that they can really change the fortunes of the declining high street.
“The last government gave over 100 towns money for this, but there’s no evidence gathered, so we don’t know what worked or what didn’t. There is also no data on how many pop-ups exist, as they come and go very quickly. Some of the money given to these 12 towns should be used to gather evidence to help our town centres – the best evidence we have that they work is that traders keep coming back and doing them again.”
Carli-Jayne McNaught runs The Olde Young Tea House in Middlesbrough, recently branched out and hosted a pop-up cafe at a fashion event at Middlesbrough Institute for Modern Art (mima).
“Being involved with a pop-up event gets your business into another channel of sales, and I feel that having a travelling tea house, as well as my regular shop, will help the business grow in areas it wouldn’t normally. I contacted the marketing company after hearing about the mima event, and think that it could be made easier for small businesses to get involved. Pop ups are not promoted enough as an option for existing businesses. They should be.”
So while it is not definitive whether or not pop up shops can really change the fortune of our town and city centres, certainly they offer an opportunity for small businesses to open with less risk and larger organisations to present new products in a new and exciting way creating more interest and diversity in our high streets.