There is no denying that the retail sector was hit incredibly hard during the recent recession and high streets up and down the country are home to 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 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’? It would appear the answer to that question would be ‘yes’, as the Centre for Economics and Business Research reported that pop-up businesses contributed around £2.3 billion to the UK economy last year. 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.
Yes, online shopping is a quick and convenient process – it’s also one that is cold and void of any meaningful communication; it does not 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.
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.