Why Startup Britain Thinks 2013 is the Year of the Pop-Up

By Emma Jones, co-founder of enterprise campaign StartUp Britain

Eric Pickles, Emma Jones and Mark Prisk at Popup Britain

Take an empty shop, add a constantly changing bunch of retail entrepreneurs and you have a model that will not only help re-shape the high street, but also provide much-needed shot in the arm to British entrepreneurs…That’s exactly what we’re doing at PopUp Britain.  Thousands of British retail businesses are springing up online, they are being run by entrepreneurs who couldn’t fill an empty shop single-handedly – let alone pay for it!

The model we have introduced has been piloted at the Richmond store we opened in July.  Since then we’ve helped more than 60 small businesses take their products to the high street market.

For our latest outlet, we were asked by the Department of Communities and Local Government  (DCLG) to start-up a shop in their own building that we could run to showcase how a PopUp Britain shop might work on every high street.

The shop will be run by us, and along this model:  six small retail businesses co-fund and co-work in the shop for two weeks at a time.  Then six more move in for two weeks.

It means the businesses can continue to work from their own laptop while they are in the shop, they get to interact with customers – getting valuable feedback and marketing experience that they wouldn’t otherwise get online – and they can also forge partnerships with their co-working fellow entrepreneurs.

The shop was unveiled by us and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles the week before Christmas.

The shop will be open to the public for at least a year and offer affordable retail space to over 150 small British businesses. We put it together with the help of sponsors Intuit, which is to provide payment facilities and is being supported by StartUp Britain sponsors, John Lewis and law firm SNR Denton.

Local Growth Minister Mark Prisk has written to the British Property Federation to urge landlords to get on board. Ministers are also changing planning restrictions so landlords can alter how an empty shop is used for up to two years.

Mr Prisk has pledged that all 330 town team partners will receive support to facilitate new pop-ups in their empty high street premises, which has the potential to support thousands of new businesses.

All these steps will make it easier for start-ups to find other low-cost ways to get their products to market in their own town.

In 2012 484,224 British businesses were registered – undisputedly higher than 2011. People are starting out small and online and going for organic growth. They need specific help and support to take them to the next level. PopUp Britain’s new model will help to do exactly that.

What we’d like PopUp Britain to evolve into is a recognisable brand that will become synonymous with supporting British businesses – not closing down sales and charity shops.  So people know that the money they spend in here helps the British economy.

Small British businesses are the driving force of the economy. This initiative offers them a chance to physically test out new markets as well as get their products in front of consumers and big buyers in a way that has never been available to them before.

By actively encouraging local authorities to give start-ups access to empty shops across Britain, we hope it will help accelerate British enterprise as well as providing a vibrant addition to the local British shopping experience.

Key stats and evidence on start-ups in the UK

  • 2011 saw a record high for start-ups: over 450,000 people set up a company and became their own boss
  • A StartUp Britain poll revealed 82 per cent of start-ups found the pop-up experience was valuable for their business
  • In the UK, there are 4.8m private sector companies employing an estimated 23.9m people with a turnover of £3,100bn. SMEs also account for almost half the net growth in jobs.
  • According to the latest figures from the British Retail Consortium, 11.3 per cent of shop premises in UK town centres are now vacant
  • According to research from StartUp Britain, 63% of businesses not already on the High Street think their business would benefit from a high street presence and of these, 88% believe funding is the biggest barrier
  • A survey for Intuit of 1,000 small businesses in the U.K. found that just 19 per cent of micro-businesses – firms with less than 10 employees – currently accept card payments. Almost half, a total of 47 per cent, said they would accept cards if there was a more affordable way of doing so using their smartphone or tablet.


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