A world first for Shoreditch and shopping?

Shoreditch Boxpark

Boxpark Hackney Road Lon E2 3 March 2012TO ITS promoter, Boxpark is “the world’s first-ever pop-up mall”. To multinationals, it is a chance to cash in on “the Olympics 2012 effect”, as they term the expected jetloads of affluent visitors.

To others, it may seem the start of the end of  creative Shoreditch, the final assault on the district by corporatism, just as the City captured the 1876-founded Spitalfields market a kilometer south, rebranding it, with unintentional irony, Old Spitalfields Market.

Boxpark will be a cluster of shipping containers arranged as a shopping centre next to Shoreditch High Street station and due to open in this summer. The 4.7-hectare (11.6-acre) site is owned by Hammerson, the huge property company that wanted to demolish the Light building 100m to the south.

With Ballymore Group, Hammerson intends to develop the site in five years’ time; meanwhile the prime land has been lying unused.

Roger Wade, a former market trader who now runs fashion brand consultancy Brand Incorporated, came up with the idea of a retail centre that can be picked up and moved when the really big money wants the site or if it turns out to be unsuitable — unlikely, given its location next to the station and within sight of Shoreditch Houses’s rooftop swimming pool.

Wade, who is also a lecturer at London College of Fashion, said that his “innovative, low-cost, low-risk retail” scheme is targeting Carhartt, stussy, Fred Perry, APC, Nigel Cabourn, Heritage Research, Nudie and Religion; high-status brands all. Retail sources have told Loving Dalston that most of the 60 containers are let ahead of the scheduled August opening.

Garry Finnegan, sales director of hga Group, a Shoreditch retail consultancy, said: “Boxpark is an exciting concept, providing quirky destination experience for the shopper, an innovative move on from the pop-up shop. Its simplicity and low-risk approach will be its strength, allowing both established and emerging brands a unique platform to showcase their product.”

Rosemary Dartnall, retail supplier, was also enthusiastic. She said: “Short-term leases will benefit smaller retailers and reduce the likelihood of over-ritzy shoplifting by the big guys, which would ruin the recycling credentials. I hope the concept will roll out to other UK cities and encourage small flair-lead retailers to challenge our ever more homogeneous high streets in a low cost environment.”
Jonathan Baker, a London College of Fashion senior lecturer in fashion retail branding and visual merchandising, has doubts.
“Boxpark is an interesting concept,” he says, “although it’s clearly just an opportunity to provide yet another entry point for the national and global multiples to move ever closer to us.
“How will this enhance our lives? Where are the sensory shopping experiences here? Where is the entertainment, the innovation and what are the visual cues beyond shipping-container-wrapped logos? Why would this be enticing for the customer?”
David Altheer 210611

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