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Seasonal pop up shops in Chapel Street


Melbourne’s Chapel Street has a bunch of seasonal pop up shops !

Last weekend I did a quaintly-Melbourne-Saturday thing… went along to a nearby house auction to “have a sticky” inside and chat with the neighbours… The property on offer was a clever mews-style warehouse conversion, down a narrow laneway – “very European” said the auctioneer in his pre-amble. The agent also espoused the locality… only a stone’s throw from Greville Street (“one of the few streets which doesn’t need a suburb’s name to identify it”) – and Chapel Street “surely the Champs-Élysées of Melbourne”. That last comment earned a few guffaws from the neighbours, especially those who know the retail-woes of our local shopping strip !

A few days before that I’d started thinking about posting this update on Chapel Street – already been up and down the centre retail section (between Toorak and Commercial Roads) several times to count the pop up opportunities (25 premises For Lease, another 8 just sitting vacant…) – but also to look closely at the new seasonal pop up shops. There was a total of 9 locations proudly boasting “pop up” signs – featuring fashion, jewellery, sustainable and eco-friendly / unique products. I think that’s great news for Chapel Street – nine spaces which aren’t just collecting dust at the door (and nine agents who’ve pleased their landlords…). Agreed, this is the last couple of weeks before Christmas and it is peak retail season in any location. If there’s ever a time when short-term spaces are in high demand, it’s mid-December.

I spoke to several of those seasonal pop up traders – none of them found it easy to find temporary space on Chapel Street (despite all those For Lease signs…), most of them knocking on many agent’s doors. One event manager for a national brand, with a long and successful record of pop up shops, said it took some determination to secure her high-profile corner store (“but I’m a good negotiator” she said !)

Another visionary took on a collection of tired retail shops a couple of months back, gave them some sprucing and began a campaign to re-launch an open-air arcade as the Chapel Lane pop-up huts. Since November those beach-box style huts have hosted several small businesses – fashion and food, homewares and lifestyle products. Each weekend sees additional market-style vendors and entertainment added to the mix. Chapel Lane is currently full of seasonal pop up traders – and those businesses change quite often (see below for new opportunities, leasing now ‘til April 2019)

As far as I know, not one of those seasonal pop up spaces has received any support from a trader’s group or council. The trader’s association is the Chapel Street Precinct – funded by Chapel Street businesses (indirectly, via a compulsory rates levy collected by Stonnington Council). The Chapel Street Precinct is a local initiative, focused on “raising awareness of the precinct via high levels of bold marketing and events activity as well as injecting a sense of excitement and buzz…”* Great, but that doesn’t seem to include pop up shops, despite my own efforts (and many others…) trying to attract their interest and input.

Whilst the team at Chapel Street Precinct are very good at gaining high-profile media attention of their various events (“using cheeky, disruptive campaigns…”*) – those activities are quite limited, just a handful each year. Similarly, the local Stonnington Council seem to direct their Economic Development activities elsewhere, not toward short-term and independent retail events… I suppose those 2 entities are obliged to look after the interests of their permanent (rate-paying) members and the longer-term prospects of Chapel Street. But surely temporary traders (ie. the pop ups) can add value via their short-term contributions, and might benefit from some local support and recognition (?)

I’m really pleased (and encouraged) that, despite a lack of interest from the local influencers, Chapel Street has started to embrace pop up culture. I won’t be too surprised if January sees the seasonal pop up spaces vacant again, but hopefully not for too long. And wouldn’t it be terrific if some of those temporary stores stayed on, into the new year…

Regular readers of this blog will know I watch the activity on Chapel Street closely – checking vacancies and counting the For Lease signs (some of those empty spaces / agent signs have been there a looong time). And every so often I post a comment / analysis on the challenges of Chapel Street.

The future for this shopping ‘strip is certainly looking more positive, with major developments planned or well underway. Several new residential, retail and hospitality projects (with extra parking !) will open within the next couple of years, and will hopefully lead to a resurrection / restoration of Chapel Street’s popularity.

But will it ever challenge the Champs-Élysées as “the most famous avenue in the world…”^ ? Hmm, not sure about that…

In the meantime… if you’re interested in joining traders at the Chapel Lane pop up huts – email – to register your interest !


*source : / about

^ source : Champs Elysees



images :    Google Images – Chapel Street Precinct / pop up



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