How pop-up retail revitalises local economies

The findings of an international research project to explore the issues and benefits of pop-up retail and leisure formats were shared at an interactive workshop at NTU in June.

We hope that projects such as this will lead to some exciting future collaborations that could make a real difference to local communities.
Professor Baback Yazdani, Dean of Nottingham Business School

The findings of an international research project to explore the issues and benefits of pop-up retail and leisure formats were shared at an interactive workshop held at Nottingham Trent University in June.

The event brought together stakeholders from local, national and international organisations. Nicola Griffiths, Responsible Business Manager at Virgin Trains, explained how the train operator's innovative approach to capturing new ideas had resulted in a series of regular pop-up trading activities at railway stations up and down the country. Not only do the short-term opportunities provide a platform for new businesses, they also help to liven up dull spaces, improve passenger experiences, and even reduce waste by extending the trading day for mobile retailers.

From a very different perspective, Berry Kessels of the Arnhem Housing Association (Volkshuisvesting) explained how the organisation used short-term retail, theatre and leisure activities as a key part of its €30 million revitalisation of a very run-down part of the Dutch city. Known as the Fashion Quarter, the Klarendal district of Arnhem now boasts 70 permanent retail traders, restaurants and bars, and has been transformed from a no-go area to a popular leisure destination within 10 years.

The comparable local experience of Nottingham came from Kathy McArdle, CEO of Nottingham's Creative Quarter Company; Adam Tamsett, General Manager of the Broadmarsh Centre; and a group of independent traders including The Sarah Manton, Studio Chocolate, Dukki Designs, and the Froth Coffee Shop. Their shared experience echoed the benefits of livening up tired spaces as well as highlighting the benefits to the traders, but they also discussed some challenges.

A common thread was the importance of having innovative risk-takers at stakeholder level who are willing to do things differently and work towards a set of values wider than pure financial gain. Also important is collaborative, cooperative working, both between traders and across the extended networks of local policymakers, landlords, businesses and other front-line organisations such as the arts, community champions, or educators. There are clear signs from each of the examples that this approach has helped contribute some commercial benefits, such as introducing innovative retail and leisure formats, as well as providing the wider benefits of creating community atmosphere and attracting residents, other businesses and visitors to the targeted areas.

For the businesses involved, temporary space can help traders get a feel for running their own business, test products and get to know their customers, and may or may not lead to a permanent space or complement other outlets such as online or different locations. However, the challenges are often those of any other newly started or early stage business: how to grow and sustain themselves, attract custom, and manage cashflow.

Organisationally, there are many logistical and regulatory challenges to establishing temporary spaces, and these affect large stakeholders as well as small traders. Councils are often seen as imposing unfair regulations, but in reality can be caught between supporting enterprise, upholding legal obligations, and dealing with absentee or disinterested landlords and commercial agents.

Overall, the research explores the development and impact of sustainable, independent retail formats in temporary locations – often known as pop-up shops – from the perspective of landlords, policymakers, community stakeholders and the retailers themselves. The full research report, drawing on experiences in the UK, the Netherlands, Ireland and Iceland, will be published in the autumn.

The event was hosted by the team behind the study - Professor Clare Brindley, Dr Carley Foster, Dr Lynn Oxborrow and Dr Guja Armannsdottir. After the event, Professor Baback Yazdani, Dean of the Business School, said: "It was inspiring to hear about the experiences of some truly innovative organisations. This research builds on an area of expertise within Nottingham Business School and we hope that projects such as this will lead to some exciting future collaborations that could make a real difference to local communities."

How pop-up retail revitalises local economies

Published on 24 June 2016
  • Category: Business; Nottingham Business School

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