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Why 2013 Is the Year to Pop-Up

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As the new year is welcomed in with talk of fiscal cliffs and predictions for retail heartache, it's important to remember that it's not all high street doom and gloom out there.

There are emerging opportunities for the most resourceful of retail entrepreneurs that are picking up momentum and support not just from the business world, but from British consumers.

Until recently, pop-up shops have had a mixed reputation. The 'everything must go' hastily scrawled in white spray paint, or uninspiring charity shops are the oft-criticised and cited version most commonly associated with the re-use of empty shops - but more recently the pop-up concept has taken an intellectual leap.

Network hubs, pop-up cafes, restaurants and fashion outlets with DJ sets are starting to become part of the high street fabric - but the bigger question is how these ventures can help to deliver long-term stability.

The answer is by offering support to the increasing numbers of people setting up businesses in the UK, the strivers driving the British economy. The latest figures reveal 2012 was another record year for start-ups with 478,769 businesses registered with Companies House. That's got to be a blast of good news.

The enterprise campaign StartUp Britain recently launched a brand new pop-up shop that is part of a plan to open the genre to start-ups on a new scale. PopUp Britain gives six start-up and small retail businesses at a time the chance to co-work and co-fund an empty shop for two weeks at a time - keeping costs low and the consumer offering high.

The campaign's latest shop in Victoria is in a converted office space in the Department of Communities and Local Government. The department intends to use it as a showcase to its 330 Town Teams - offering it to them as a blueprint of how they can offer the same model to local start-ups in their own areas.

The campaign has looked at pop-up shops differently: it offers its shared space to small businesses that operate online and want the chance to meet customers face-to-face, but couldn't take on or indeed fill a shop on their own for any period of time.

Its pilot shop in Richmond showed that the benefits were threefold: retailers made sales, got feedback and forged strategic partnerships with other entrepreneurs sharing the space; the Richmond shopper saw a more vibrant high street, local retailers were pleased with the increased footfall and interest; and the local council immediately picked up on the benefits for their high street and brought in a grant for other would-be pop-up retailers to follow suit.

StartUp Britain's experience suggests that small businesses stand to gain a lot from this particular pop-up model. It adds the social dimension that working remotely removes for them and the palpable irony that new online British businesses could be the salvation not the destroyer of our high streets.

The campaign's Richmond pop-up helped over 60 small British businesses get to the high street market. Its Victoria venture promises to help over 150 over 2013. If the concept is taken up across the UK, the potential is enormous to create a pop-up brand that will become synonymous for the consumer with supporting British business - and with businesses for getting a legitimate and affordable foot on the retail ladder.

At a time when we're seeing record numbers of people setting up businesses, making use of our high streets to nurture British business seems obvious.
www.popupbritain.com