Summer 2012
Pop-Up Contains Retail Possibilities

Forget pop-up stores. This entire mall, fashioned out of an unusual concept, works to redefine the meaning of “pop-up.”

Roger Wade, the founder of British fashion brand Boxfresh, has always been fascinated by shipping containers and their possibilities. That fascination turned into something very real: an entire “pop-up” mall crafted from stripped and retrofitted shipping containers. He essentially used boxes to create something completely “outside the box.” The result is Boxpark, which opened last December in East London’s Shoreditch neighborhood, and the pop-up mall has quickly attracted a vibrant local following.

“I wanted to create something on a grand scale by using shipping containers; and offer retailers short leases, versatility and cost-effective retailing that made sense—the antithesis of the out-of-town shopping mall,” Wade says. The mall, which is home to local stores along with international brands such as Puma, Nike and Levi’s, features more than 60 shops and food/beverage retailers.

Pop-up redefined

Boxpark2-The concept intends to be in the neighborhood for at least five years; unlike most traditional “pop-up” retail locations which may only stay in one place for a few days or weeks. Company spokesperson Kate Cameron says the pop-up term refers to the fact that the shipping containers that make up the buildings are not there permanently and can be picked up and moved to another location.

One of Boxpark’s objectives was to help revitalize the area and bring new business opportunities to a neighborhood with a distinct urban vibe. “The land Boxpark was built on had been barren for forty years,” Cameron says. “The demographic of the brands fits perfectly with the trendy setting and sporty street style of East London.”

Leasing logistics

Leases, which are offered for a minimum of one year and a maximum of five, cost approximately £30,000 (about $47,667 USD) per year plus fees.

Cameron says the small size of the units, at just 300 square feet, is a challenge when it comes to leasing, but has been creatively overcome by tenants. “The brands had to be extremely creative and clever when fitting out the inside of their unit. As the outside of each unit looks the same, the inside is where the brands can express their image and showcase their collections,” she says.

Route One, an urban streetwear shop, displays skateboards on the ceiling, while tenants like Marimekko, a Finnish textile and clothing design house, take advantage of bold design and graphic printed pieces to brighten up the space.

Differentiating details

One of the mall’s goals from day one was to preserve the community’s character by leasing to local businesses. “Brands such as Abuze London (an urban streetwear retailer) are locally based and this is their first retail shop,” Cameron says. “With short lease terms and a location perfect for their demographic, this is an opportunity that allows them to be next to bigger brands.”

Larger, international brands were asked to do something totally unique to Boxpark and offer exclusive items to set them apart from their other locations, according to Cameron. Puma, for example, operates a concept store under the name “PUMAtwentyone,” where every 21 days, 21 new styles are introduced. Nike’s shops include a running clinic downstairs; and upstairs, customers can work with consultants at the Nike design studio to create their own shoe.

“Boxpark also acts as more of a venue space to local artists, musicians, businesses and charities,” Cameron says. This is another aspect that sets Boxpark aside from traditional malls.

A prime example is local charity, Art Against Knives, a group that raises awareness about knife crime and provides a platform for local artists. Customers can purchase artwork from the charity’s Boxpark gallery to support its work against violent gang culture.

Boxpark is also home to an outdoor art gallery which hosts an event the first Thursday of each month, and many of the shops support local artists as well. Cameron says the mall has hosted a fashion show and live poetry and film screenings, and plans on hosting more fashion shows, as well as sporting and food events, in the future.

As for the road ahead, Cameron says the brand is looking forward to expanding its reach in the community. “Footfall is always increasing and people are enjoying the space the way it was intended; not just a pop-up mall, but a hangout and a platform for creative local talent.”

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