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governments step up to pop up

With some official assistance….pop ups can help creative groups and small businesses become established… while offering landlords the chance to re-populate their stores !

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about pop up shops… and the conversation is growing louder ! For many retailers the “pop up phenomenon” – which only started around a decade ago – has evolved as a viable alternative to permanent stores, providing many opportunities that bricks and mortar never could offer…. Marketing agencies and popular brands have embraced the pop-up culture with exciting and innovative installations, utilising their social and traditional media channels to create great chatter for their products.

But recently there’s also some interest from governments – who’d have thought that big brother would ever consider pop-up ? It’s happening in many corners of the world – local councils, agencies and community groups are now working together on initiatives to re-invigorate retail precincts through the nurturing of temporary projects – offering start up businesses and creative groups the opportunity to step out to the real world and settle into the mainstream…

The increasing (alarming !) rates of retail shop vacancies have stirred up these initiatives. In December 2012, Britain’s Sky News suggested around 1 in 6 stores stood empty across the UK (and 20 more businesses closing every day…). Analysts in the USA suggest around 11.2% retail vacancies (source : Fortunately the situation in Australia is not so desperate – according to reports by commercial real estate experts Knight Frank there are approx. 2.4 % vacancies in Melbourne and 2.9% in Sydney CBDs. The picture is not so rosy out in the suburban shopping strips though – the same authors quote 5.3% in the prime locations for Melbourne.

With vacancies still on the increase and new tenants scarce…. action groups such as StartUp Britain and Renew Australia have taken up the issue. Their general aim is to re-populate suffering retail precincts with temporary tenants, in an effort to maintain some life until economic situations improve. It seems that when one local business fails it often leads to others suffering in the neighbourhood – pedestrian traffic dries up and an air of decay soon sets in. Pretty grim stuff – and any measure which offers to stem the tide would surely be welcome !

Many of these initiatives aim to make it easier for an artist or small business to establish a store, offering them space in locations which are otherwise vacant. The government or agency may facilitate subsidised rent and set up costs for the tenant, offering a short-term licence agreement in place of a formal lease contract. Tenures are usually set for a specific (short) time – often just a few weeks or months. When the licence period expires the tenant is invited to stay on (at a more commercial rate…) or vacate, leaving the space available for other pop up opportunities. The objective (for the landlord and the agency) is to secure long leases in these premises – hopefully with the pop up enterprise – but also to keep the shop alive and interesting in the time it takes to find a permanent tenant…

There are many examples of these initiatives at work –

The British government is providing over £80million in start-up loans to young entrepreneurs – and also altering planning restrictions to increase the use of empty properties. The UK Department for Communities and Local Government has offered space in its own Whitehall (London) premises for a series of two-week tenures for small businesses – potentially assisting more than 150 enterprises over 12 months. The government initiatives reach further than central London – more than 350 high street precincts across the country will receive support to facilitate pop-up shops… which could support thousands of new businesses (source : Sinden Thackeray Partnership).

In the USA, Project Pop Up : Downtown has support of the Pittsburgh Mayor and local authorities “…to bring Downtown back to life… for retail, Project Pop Up Pittsburgh: Downtown is a great tool to inject life and energy into the Downtown business district.”

Across in San Francisco, Pop Up Hood has been working in an area of Old Oakland – their website says they’ve “introduced a total of eight new retail concepts to six storefronts… the result has been increased foot traffic, enhanced safety, and a more vibrant local economy… three retailers have signed a long term lease”.

Renew Australia has been involved in many projects across our country – Newcastle, Parramatta, Adelaide, Geelong and Melbourne, including the new Docklands Spaces initiative (with support from the City Of Melbourne and other enterprises)

Yes, there’s been a lot of discussion about pop up shops lately… even in the corridors of power ! What are your thoughts – do you think government intervention is appropriate and worthwhile, would you applaud or denounce the work of the renew and start up agencies ?


featured image : pop up shops welcome – – Google Images


3 comment to "governments step up to pop up"

  1. Republic Spaces 01/03/2013

    So great to see the Australian Government stepping in to take up empty spaces.


  2. Marius van der Nist 03/04/2013

    Hi there,

    Been following your Facebook for a while now. I just recently launched a Container Pop-Up t-shirt store (www.facebook/urbanclothingcompany) on the Gold Coast, but woul dnow like to find a space where I can place a container in Melbourne.

    Could you lead me in a direction or could your company assist?

    Keep up the good work!

    Marius van der Nist


  3. Scott 03/04/2013

    Hello Marius – let me think about this for a day or so…. Could you send an email to – so I can respond directly to you. And thanks for the comment / support !


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