The first ‘PopUp Britain’ store opened for business this week, as part of a new scheme enabling promising start-ups to inhabit empty high street shops.
The store, part of StartUp Britain’s StartUp High Street initiative, opened its doors to the public at 11am on Monday, and is located at 2 Kew Road, just opposite Richmond train station.
This pilot store will stay open for three months, during which time six start-ups will inhabit the premises for two weeks at a time.
Emma Jones, co-founder of StartUp Britain, said the initiative is “win-win-win”, giving start-ups an unprecedented, cost-effective platform for their business, helping landlords make some money from empty properties, and helping to attract more people to Britain’s high streets. Prior to this week’s launch, the Richmond property had been empty for over a year.
Jones told Startups: “The plan is to spend these three months really getting the model right here in Richmond. We want to get it right for the tenants now, making sure they generate sales and pick up retail skills, and create a successful template that we can potentially roll out nationwide.”
The rent is being “crowdfunded” between the six different businesses, with each paying £135 for two weeks’ occupancy. “For one business, that would not be affordable,” said Jones.
The scheme has already received "invaluable" support from local retailers and StartUp Britain sponsors. This has included: a tailor-made, two-week shop insurance policy from AXA; six laptops from Dell; accounting software from Intuit; furniture and fittings from Dwell; online payments support from PayPal; and two weeks' free billboard space from JC Decaux.
The initial six start-ups trading in the pilot store are: Bertie & Jack, which sells original artwork; Vulpine, a cycling apparel retailer; jewellery company Maria Allen Jewellery; Elephant Branded, a social enterprise selling bags and accessories; sock retailer Morrow’s Outfitters; and clothing company Tier One.
While the start-ups believe the unusually hot weather this week has had a negative effect on footfall, (after a bumper day's trading on Monday, following the press launch) all six have already covered their initial outlay on rent for the two-week period.
Speaking today, on the fifth day of trading, Maria Allen, founder of Maria Allen Jewellery, said: “It’s been quite quiet but I’ve had sales each day so I’m happy with how it’s going. It’s really good to be able to meet all the customers and I’ve got lots of useful feedback that I may not have gotten if they were just browsing my website. Normally I just sell online so it’s really good to be able to talk to customers. I can also see which items are the most popular.”
Gemma Saggers, of Elephant Branded, agreed that it has been a positive experience so far. “We’d recommend it to other start-ups to gauge a feel of whether your product is right for the high street, because a product might be great online but that doesn’t mean it needs its own shop.”
Philip Morrow, MD of Morrow’s outfitters, who started his business from home 10 months ago, added: “Usually I'd be processing emails, working from home or planning for the future, which I can do here. At the same time we’ve got the opportunities of people walking in and browsing. I broke even within the first two hours, so everything I sell from now until the end is clear profit.”
To apply to be part of StartUp High Street, visit: