A new concept for British shopping has emerged in Shoreditch, Hackney, where a small corner of disused land by the High Street train station has been regenerated into a thriving mall….using shipping containers.
For the next five years, ‘Boxpark’ will be in situ on land that had been disused and derelict for 40 years, leased from Hammerson and Ballymore. The construction project took just three months and the result is a network of shops filled with a mix of local and national brands. Roger Wade, the founder of fashion chain Boxfresh and brain behind the project, has stated he believes that independent brands are often squeezed out of the high street by rents and legal process, and his project consciously made room for such brands.
For instance, instead of one of the many vast coffee chains like Café Nero or Starbucks, Boxpark shoppers are refreshed by Foxcroft & Ginger, an establishment that previously only had one other premises over in Soho. Wade indicated he wanted a ‘local’ feel and ensured a large amount of outdoor seating, which is, of course, at a premium in the busy capital.
Big brands do have a presence in the Shoreditch project, but they have been labelled as ‘big brands acting small’. Each big brand shop is a ‘concept’ store. Nike, for example, used the opportunity to open its NikeiD store, where customers can design their own trainers, and Puma created a place to exhibit exclusive designs which change every month.
The cost for business owners in the park is comparably cheap, with a yearly rent of £25,000 which includes support from the Boxpark brand and website. Business rates are between £5000-10,000 and were negotiated on behalf of the tenants. The result is, in their words, “a living, fertile community of brands packed with talent, innovation and attitude that puts creativity and fashion back where they belong: on the street”.
Wade revealed the idea behind the project:
“Shopping centres are not just about selling – the consumer is a lot smarter than that. You have to make them want to come to you.”
Such a mantra has resulted in events taking place to entice customers in, even including a risqué burlesque themed cocktail event arranged by a lingerie retailer!
The concept is hoped to be strong enough to spread to other cities in the near future. Wade reputedly indicated that he would like another site open within twelve months and has already been in negotiations with a business partner over opening an Amsterdam version. We could possibly, therefore, be experiencing the steadily changing face of British retailing and perhaps this is just the sort of proactive thinking that could reinvigorate Britain’s high streets and fight back the rising trend of internet shopping.