Campaign seeks to bring small firms back to town centres

Wednesday 16 January 2013

The newly-formed PopUp Forum - which has the support of a number of business groups - is encouraging entrepreneurs to establish a presence on the high street.

Representatives of the group are in talks with the latest high street chains to announce closures in a bid to see some of the empty stores return to use as soon as possible.

The PopUp Forum hopes exciting young enterprises can fill the void left by struggling companies which have downsized or gone out of business in recent times.

Dan Thompson from the Empty Shops Network, Emma Jones, from national enterprise campaign StartUp Britain and Nick Russell from We Are Pop Up are among the experts backing the initiative.

Opportunities for start-up companies

Emma Jones said the forum is currently working with the administrators' lawyers to contact landlords and find out if it can take control of a percentage of recently-closed shops.

This is with a view to offering affordable retail spaces to small and start-up British retail businesses, on a rolling basis, she stated.

Jessops, Woolworths, JJB Sports, Blacks, La Senza, GAME and Clinton Cards are among the companies to have lost some - or all - of their high street stores.

“Last year may have been a bad year for big retailers, but it was a record year for British start-ups," Ms Jones noted.

"Our local high streets are in trouble - and yet what small retail business wouldn’t give their right arm for the chance to trade in their own communities, generating sales and awareness of their brand?"

Giving businesses a chance

Nick Russell noted that the job of administration is "a long and arduous process" that can take years - and potentially leaves shops unoccupied for good.

"What we’ve asked for is the chance to throw open boarded-up shops for an agreed time to small businesses," he stated.

Mr Russell said this scheme would give consumers the chance to support British enterprise.

Dan Thompson, who wrote Pop Up Business For Dummies, noted that creative, independent shops and businesses are "a growing part of the British economy right now".

He suggested that these firms can play a vital role in reinventing and reinvigorating the high street.

"Times are hard yes, but resourceful people are making business ideas come to life," Mr Thompson stated.

According to latest stats from the British Retail Consortium, 11.3 per cent of shops are now empty.

Two-thirds of MPs surveyed by the body claimed the high streets in their constituencies have deteriorated noticeably over the last five years.

Posted by Jenny Arthur