As the economy tightens inexorably, location will be more important than ever
If you were to judge a retail location by the number of column inches it generates, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Boxpark, the mall created from shipping containers, was very successful. Yet in the last week or so, Boxpark has been publicising the fact that its retailers now operate a loyalty scheme - the surest indication that all is not well in trendy Shoreditch.
Like all fashion retail destinations, or the great majority anyway, Boxpark has been hit by the rain. Shoreditch may seem like a good idea when the sun’s out and you can combine a Brick Lane smoked salmon bagel with browsing some of the Capital’s more idiosyncratic offers, but when the heavens open it’s a little too gritty. Now couple this with the fact that it may have some interesting offers, not least Nike’s experimental digital store, but there is usually a reason why a site has been empty for 40 years - nobody really rated it as a location.
So what needs to be done to turn this one into a success? Move. Move anywhere west of its current location. Boxpark is set to remain in place for up to five years, which does make the notion of it being ‘the world’s first pop-up mall’ a tricky one. It also means that it is saddled with a location where footfall seems not to be all it should be.
Developers have a habit of talking places up and given the plethora of independent retailers that have set up shop in Shoreditch, putting Boxpark here must have seemed like a very good idea. The point about this area however, is that it targets an affluent, young and fashionable minority - who are likely to be among the first to be hit when the economy turns sour.
It must also have been considered a win-win for developers and retailers. Here was an area in innner London that was relatively cheap to develop and occupy and which would cement the relationship between Shoreditch and fashion in the popular imagination.
All of which does little to help things currently. Moving is, in fact, out of the question, as low(er) price is part of Boxpark’s appeal. Relocate and the price/space equation won’t work. The sun may yet shine this summer and the crowds may fill this part of East London, but the meteorological omens are inauspicious.
And a propos of nothing, Tesco’s recent F&F pop-up store in Covent Garden looked fine, but it’s not a patch on what the grocer is doing with its F&F standalones in the Czech Republic. Time to consider bringing this format here chaps? Perhaps an F&F Boxpark store…could be good for all parties.