Since the recession, with retailer failures high and voids common, pop-up shops have become an integral part of the commercialisation mix – it is expected to be the biggest growth area for Destination Space – and they are often more experimental than their mall-based counterparts.
Jones Lang LaSalle has a rolling pop-up strategy but, as with most shopping centre operators, number, frequency and time open depends on the void rate.
“Landlords are looking at their pop-up strategies more and more with dedicated people being hired to work solely on short term lets,” says Walker. “They are putting a lot more thought into it, more than they ever did before and putting the weight of a marketing and PR push behind it.”
In what may be a first for the industry, the team at Liverpool One has decided to take a unit out of use to be used full time as a space for pop-up shops, initially on a 12 month trial.
“We’re blessed to have very little vacancy and when we do have a void we can fill it quickly but it’s good to have short term change and pop-ups allow for that refreshment,” says Miles Dunnett, head of asset management at the Grosvenor Liverpool Fund. “We’ve made a conscious decision to keep this unit back and it comes at a cost to us. But variation provides an interesting environment for visitors; we believe it will be an unusual point of difference, something that sparks visits and encourages people to return.”
The unit is expected to be up and running by February and Dunnett is hoping operators will tie into local and national events – Valentine’s Day, Easter, the Grand National and to dovetail in with exhibitions and events at Tate Liverpool and the city’s Echo Arena – and no one pop-up will be open for more than a month.
Reflecting Grosvenor’s work to ensure no two visits to the centre are ever the same, Liverpool One hosted Asparagus Patch, the UK’s first pop-up asparagus restaurant, to coincide with the British asparagus season in May last year. Open for a month, it was run by a local farmer from Claremont Farm in Wirral, showcasing his own produce and offering a menu with various fresh takes on the vegetable.
The team worked with Andrew Pimbley, the farm’s managing director, to create a purpose-designed space in a 1,755-sq ft unit. Dunnett says they created a “truly special experience” and they could be back in the summer, this time selling strawberries, and potentially to coincide with Wimbledon.
Another pop-up success last year was the Harvey Nichols Foodmarket. Back for the third year, it stocked a wide selection of luxury hampers and gift sets, gourmet treats, wines and its new Riot of Colour own-label range.
Dunnett and the team will be looking to capitalise on examples of quality and uniqueness similar to Asparagus Patch and the Harvey Nichols Foodmarket but they will be careful not to tread on the toes of the in-line tenants.
“For our long term tenants who trade all day long, all year round it’d be unfair to cannibalise their offer, especially during the Christmas period,” says Dunnett. “We’ll hold tenant meetings and we’ll make sure the pop up operators complement our existing retailers all the way through the year.”
Land Securities embraced pop-ups at Trinity Leeds’ newly opened Trinity Kitchen, a catering concept which along with permanent restaurants hosts five street food vendors that change every month.
Land Securities recruited Richard Johnson, founder of the British Street Food Awards, to help develop the concept and bring in the best of street food from around the UK. The first five street food concepts included a vintage tea and cake shed, New York-style hot dogs, a Piaggio van offering traditional foccacia and Indian snack stall Manjit’s Kitchen, and vending positions are booked up months in advance.
Although some may draw a distinction between the traditional idea of commercialisation and what Land Securities have done at Trinity Kitchen, because the pop-ups form part of a wider and specially designed concept area, it has made waves in demonstrating what can be done to accommodate churn even when a centre is 100 per cent let.
And, as with any form of retail-based commercialisation, operators should complement the long term tenants, as any direct conflicts with the in-line tenants risks damaging performance.
As for the future of retail-based commercialisation, Walker thinks it needs to become part of the wider picture. “Commercialisation can’t be looked at in isolation and our strategy is to link it with other strands of our business such as research and marketing,” she says. “Not everybody sees it that way but we are beginning to see a change.”
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