Boxpark popup mall leads the way to repairing our high street

By Kellie Hill - Couch Editor

Yesterdays scramble to find out what Mary Portas – aka “the Queen of Shops” had outlined in her high street review to the government, highlighted the dire situation facing the retail industry and our high streets as the UK spirals into dangerous economic times.

“It’s not the 1960’s anymore!” she shouted out to the Bill and Sian on BBC Breakfast yesterday, adding, “The high street is not just for shopping, it needs to be multi-functional”.  Agreed Mrs. P! Click HERE to read the review.

With Internet shopping, out of town malls, hypermarkets and supermarkets, its fair to say the hassle to firstly drive and then park in a town center is so off putting, the above serves a convenient purpose. As many shopping districts across the country (especially those in the North East where I’m from) sit battered and unloved without tenants, there are areas which have got it right in re-vamping their shopping destinations.

This includes Deptford in South East London with their very successful “Deptford Project”, which enticed visitors from across the country and the globe to come to the area and experience its quirky offerings. There is also the world’s first pop-up shopping mall, Boxpark in trendy Shoreditch, East London which has recently opened it’s crates to the public.

(Brief but essential background knowledge folks – historically, East London was the industrial hub in the capital, with busy shipping yards trading across seas. But as time moved on this function died away and the area was basically mothballed. )

Roger Wade, the brains behind Boxpark, took this important part of industrial history and used it to form the basis of the pop-up mall.  Recycled shipping containers form the 60 “Boxshops”, on two levels – all of which can be transported to any location.

The brand mix at Boxpark is pretty diverse with global names such as Calvin Klein, puma, Nike and Lacoste, setting up shop along side indie’s Farah Vintage, Luke and Art Against Knives. Couch wanted to find out more about Boxpark and its effect on the local community – straight from the horses mouth!

I was lucky enough to catch some time with Mr. Wade himself, who I must say was one the most charming people I’ve interviewed! I wanted to know the reason for investing in a shopping mall during such dyer economic times. The common saying of “build and they will come” is running rather thin at the moment.

Wade told us he wanted to turn the traditional business model of shopping center’s on its head which would attract customers back time and time again.

Retail should not about sales, foot fall and figures, it needs to be an entertaining experience and customer satisfaction

The above point I agree with, but the area of Shoreditch has organically evolved into a hub of independent retailers, so bringing a pop-up mall housing some of the worlds most famous brands must have an effect on the surrounding areas. I put this to Roger who openly told us that each of the big boys had to prove that they could bring something eclectic, niche and special to Boxpark to fit in with the areas dynamics.

For example Fifty five DSL have moved their flag ship store to Boxpark and every 21 days Puma are rotating their stock and bringing in a whole set of new merchandise for customers

He also stressed that everyone is on “a level playing field at Boxpark, with each container having the same minimal fascia’s, of the same colour, allowing indies to sit along side big names”. Wade has string links with a number of indie retailers around Shoreditch and likes to work alongside them.

Indies are suffering massively, we don’t want to compete with indies in the area

It will be interesting to see in twelve months time the effect Boxpark has on Shoreditch. But what I can say is so far the mall is definitely a causing a stir and attracting attention to East London – which is a good start! If you have enjoyed reading about the worlds first pop-up mall, keep checking back as we will be bringing you more about Boxpark and other innovative retail projects across the country.