There is no denying that the retail sector was hit incredibly hard during the recent recession, so much so that it has been reported that it cost our retailers in the UK in excess of £23 billion; You only have to look to high streets up and down the country to witness rows of empty shops begging for a new lease of life. Despite the rapid rise of digital culture, where almost everything we could ever need is available ‘online’, one would ask whether the recession has in fact brought a halt to the switch to the digital paradigm that was rippling through the traditional retail model.
Brands are using the opportunity that the empty high street spaces have provided to showcase their brand and deliver a more personal experience to customers, not just restricted to large established brands, small start-up service based businesses and boutique product brands are using pop up spaces to showcase their retail events and offerings, is it possible that offline is ‘in’?
Not entirely it seems, as many businesses are reinventing the traditional retail sector and using pop up events as a way to launch their online ventures and build a customer base, and it is proving to be a successful move as the Centre for Economics and Business Research reported that pop-up businesses contributed around £2.3 billion to the UK economy last year and the pop up industry is predicted to grow 2.5 times faster than the traditional retail model in 2016.
One of the positive spin offs from the recession is the innovation and collaboration that formed in the aftermath; landlords faced the reality that unless they scrapped their traditional lengthy leases and embraced the new daily, weekly and monthly demands being made, they would suffer indefinitely while the markets stabled.
“Pop-ups have been quietly working their magic to rejuvenate flagging high streets, while giving new British retail talent an opportunity to get their first taste of the high street”, Becky Jones from *PopUp Britain explains, “A few years ago, people were saying that the high street was dead. Pop-ups aren’t the only answer, but they are proving they can add value and long-term benefit by offering an affordable training ground for the high street entrepreneurs of the future”
Yes, online shopping is a quick and convenient process – it’s also one that can be cold and void of any meaningful communication for the user; it does not always offer the same experience as being able to physically see, touch and hold an item, neither does it make a good substitute for human interaction and all the tell-tale signs that someone’s body language can give way too. While the popularity and convenience of buying through a digital platform cannot be ignored, using a pop up event to showcase a brand gives you access to a prime location, such as London’s West End, for minimal cost to people that are receptive to your offerings.
Pop-up events are not limited to the retail sector; there has also been a surge in pop up restaurants. What better to way to test your culinary delights to an audience than in a way that means you can disappear overnight if it isn’t well received or stay for the long term and gain a cult following.
John Ellingham from CanopyUK in Peterborough told us, “The rise in pop-up restaurants has been incredible. Our business provides collapsible canopies, traditionally for food festivals but recently we have been providing them for a number pop up restaurants who are providing gourmet cuisine in distinctive locations”.
The truth is we are all on a mission to be distinctive and unique, for our experiences to be exclusive and this is precisely what pop up shops are offering. An event that is only available for a limited time, offering an experience that is not available to the masses due to its very nature, no wonder they are whipping crowds into a frenzy – they are giving us exactly what we want.
As the sharing economy becomes more prevalent in society and we all look to each other to provide the services and experiences required day to day, rather than accepting the defined offerings from traditional corporations- could pop up businesses be responsible for the re-generation of towns and cities across the UK? It’s not about being chic and shiny anymore, brands are thinking on a more creative level and sometimes to be cutting edge, you need to embrace the pre-existing grit and steel and combine it with digital technology to truly reflect the movement happening within retail.