Anyone care to define the difference?

I took part in a BCSC New Generation debate last week with the endearingly bonkers Howard Saunders from Echochamber and Tim Gambrill who is heading the marketing for Westfield’s development at Stratford.

Howard has probably one of the best jobs in retail, going round the world to look at interesting stores, and he showed off some of the more exciting concepts he’d seen on his travels.

Pop-up shops figured large in his presentation and quickly formed a key part of the debate. The tone went something like this - isn’t a pop-up shop merely a fashionable new name for the very long established concept of the temporary letting.

That’s not to decry the original concept of the pop-up store. There have been some really imaginative examples in prime locations, ranging from Marmite in Regent Street to Dr Martens in Spitalfields. At their best, they add real originality and interest to retail locations, and their lack of permanence adds an urgency to go to see it.

But pop-ups are beginning to be seen as a cure-all for all shopping centres’ ills and that’s not right. There’s a danger in secondary centres in particular that they just become used to fill gaps and make the place look better, but in effect, what’s happenning is that temporary traders end up being allowed in on favourable terms to the retailers which are there all year and keep the centre going.

So while there’s a role for pop-ups as quirky places which pop up in quirky places, no-one should kid themselves that they’re the answer to the pressing problem of filling struggling centres.