There's no getting away from it, our high streets are in trouble. And for some, it's critical.
There are 53 high streets that have at least two stores from the long list of big chains that have recently announced they are to be broken-up. According to The Local Data Company, this means around 1,400 more stores are at risk of becoming empty, leaving behind an ugly legacy that could be around for years.
PopUp Britain, the retail arm of national enterprise campaign StartUp Britain, on the other hand is about to expand the number of shops it converts to pop-ups. Having lived and breathed start-ups and small businesses, the campaign knew there was a need and a will to give a new breed of online, often home-based entrepreneurs, the chance to get a taste of the high street via empty shops.
So far, so good. Within five months of the first shop opening in July last year, PopUp Britain has helped more than 60 businesses get onto the high street. By the end of next week, a showcase shop based in the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) will have seen another 23 businesses pop-in. By the end of six months, there will have been another 70 trading entrepreneurs, just in one shop. PopUp Moreton, which opened earlier this month in Moreton-in-Marsh, will help 12 local businesses in eight weeks.
Fashion brand My Edo run by, run by Edoardo Cannarsa, is now looking for a permanent shop of its own after spending two weeks over the summer in PopUp Britain in Richmond. ElephantBranded, an ethical bag manufacturer, run by 23-year-old architecture student James Boon, used its time in the shop to clinch a deal with a high street retailer. Bags are now in John Lewis shops up-and-down the country.
It's stories like this that convince us that what we're doing is right.
When we get our hands on an empty shop, we can have an impact on the local economy through helping not just one business, but many.
What we're saying is that we want to help the growing number of online British businesses that are genuinely looking for a low-cost, short-term high street opportunity. StartUp Britain has 82,000 start-ups and small businesses registered on its website that was set up just under two years ago. Last year around 484,000 start-ups were registered in the UK with Companies House; a record number. These businesses have told us they want an opportunity to meet customers face to face and make sales in a physical shop environment.
We're part of what's happening out there to try and revitalise the high street - but we accept that pop-ups are just one factor in a series of actions that need to be taken to achieve this.
Last week I was asked to represent small businesses on the Government's Future High Street Forum. I want to make sure there is a place for home-based British businesses within pop-up shops on our high streets, and that these shops become synonymous with supporting British enterprise.
The businesses we help could be the ones who will make the change that needs to happen - creating a new wave of independent retailers who will transform and inhabit the high street. These pop-ups could become stay-ups in time and businesses could co-fund and co-work on a more permanent basis.
It's going to be a long road. And there's a lot more to be done.
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