We have heard a lot of negativity over the state of retail since the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic. We have heard about how it will be the death of the high street, how the shopping experience will be entirely online, and how retail spaces will need to be converted into houses, for example. These are all ideas that we are familiar with here at Boxpod, yet as we begin to come out of the lockdown (hopefully forever), we can begin to look back on the last year or so and reflect on what has really happened and how the future now looks to us.
There are many ways that the pandemic has changed the way that we view the world and the way that we feel about certain aspects, but one thing that we have noticed that has been booming throughout the pandemic is the humble pop-up shop.
What is a Pop-Up Shop?
Pop-up shops are, at a very basic level, temporary shops. They usually ‘pop up’ in a place where they stay for a few months before they disappear again. The retailer usually has a specific goal that they are trying to achieve – sometimes they belong to a big retailer who is considering buying or renting a retail space in the area, or who are specifically looking to try something new. Other times, they belong to smaller retailers who perhaps are looking to get rid of stock or engage with a particular community.
Choosing a pop-up shop over renting retail space in a new area has many advantages to begin with. It can give you a taste of the area, test ideas, and help you to engage with potential customers. However, the fact that it is a temporary arrangement can also prove to be a problem. You may have found the perfect location for your business and products, but then have to move away within a few months.
The Corona Effect
One thing that we didn’t really see coming is the effect of the Coronavirus on pop-up shops. After all, we didn’t really see the Coronavirus coming, so how could we have predicted how it would affect pop-up shops?
At the beginning of the pandemic, however, we saw pop-up shops, erm, popping up all over the place. We saw extra supermarkets opening, pop-up food banks, grocers providing food for key and NHS workers, pop-up garden centres, and even pop-up chemists. Now we are seeing pop-up testing centres and vaccination facilities.
When it comes to supermarkets, we saw pop-up shops taking the strain off the main supermarkets. This might have been as a sort of overflow to help to accommodate the panic buying and rush on certain products, to help to ease the crowds, and enable better social distancing. Imagine how busy a shop selling flour and toilet roll would have been…
Pop-up shops have also enabled supermarkets to provide food to key workers at times when it has been difficult for them to get hold of food or other necessities. We have unfortunately seen a massive rise in the number of people who are looking for help from food banks, and pop-up food banks are still enabling those who need it, to get food quicker and without having to travel so far.
The DIY craze that swept the nation meant that garden centres and DIY shops were also booming. Pop-up shops were appearing selling gardening tools, seeds, plants, and other garden paraphernalia.
The Future of Pop-Up Shops and the High Street
As we hopefully head back to the ‘new normal’ the temptation is to think that the high street will go back to how it was. However, the biggest mistake would be to not learn anything from what the whole world has experienced with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Retailers have been able to see the benefits more than ever of pop-up shops, or indeed, short-term retail rental in terms of serving a purpose and achieving a particular goal. It is likely that pop-up shops are here to stay.
One of the biggest changes that we are already seeing in the high street is the integration of technology with the shopping experience. As more and more people have become accustomed to buying things online, it could be easy to think that shops will no longer be required. However, one thing that the recent opening of non-essential shops has shown is just how much people love the shopping experience. Just look at the queues outside some of the high street retailers in the past few weeks for proof!
It is expected that retailers will be experimenting with the integration of technology into their shopping experiences as well as the experience itself. Pop-up shops or short-term retail rental leases give them the perfect opportunity to try new ideas out.
As more and more people look like they will be enjoying flexible working, we are likely to see a more balanced local to city centre high street. People will want supermarkets, cafes, and restaurants not only near city centre offices but also on local high streets. Again, we might see retailers and pop-up cafes and restaurants ‘trying out’ a particular location before deciding to make it their permanent residence.
The main take-aways that we have found regarding retail and the coronavirus pandemic, is the fact that retailers need to be adaptable, and that consumers haven’t lost the desire for physical shopping. Shopping is more than just a buying experience, it is about trying on clothes, touching fabric, or browsing the supermarket for whatever takes your fancy, and this is unlikely to ever change.
Pop-up shops are enabling retail businesses to try new and exciting ideas, improve their customers’ experience and then allow the best ones to become a permanent installation in the high street.