For The Herald newspaper series April 2016
You may have traded until now online, or at markets and trade fairs, or you may be established in another town and looking at Wallingford next. If your business adds to the retail mix we have already, we’d be very interested in talking to you about our pop up shop project.
We have a lovely unit – on the corner of St Mary’s Street and New Road – available for hire now, and other options potentially available in the months ahead.
It’s part of a wider focus on reducing the number of empty shops in Wallingford town centre, boosting the variety of great independents we have, and adding to the vibrancy of an attractive, historic market town. Funded by Wallingford Town Council with support from South Oxfordshire District Council, via our company Flashop UK Ltd, the project sees myself and fellow director, Neil Wild, working with Wallingford Market Town Co-ordinator, Kate Rayner.
The pop up shop model – which is supporting town centre vitality projects in a number of places in Oxfordshire and beyond – is successful because it helps tackle one of the big barriers to new businesses making a start in a town. Often entrepreneurs who make enquiries about empty units find landlords and agents keen – for various reasons – on long leases, maybe 3 or 5 years or longer. But the business has neither the confidence nor track record at that stage to make such a commitment, so they step back and – sadly – all too often, the unit stays empty.
With the pop up model we’re running, businesses can hire space for a shorter period, maybe sharing with others, while they test the market and build a track record to take to future landlords. We should also emphasise that priority is given to businesses that add to the mix of independents in the town, and those that strengthen Wallingford’s reputation as a shopping destination. That’s not always easy to establish fully, for example, where empty units are under offer but not yet let and those involved feel unable to let us know the incoming business type. It’s also worth stressing that the only concession we’re making here is length of tenure. We pay the landlord the rent asked and charge that to popupsters with an amount added for utilities and other expenses like insurance. Occupiers work directly with SODC on business rate payments.
Our experience in Wallingford has been really positive. Flashop UK Ltd has had a unit at 29 High Street open as a pop up since July 2015. Its current pop up occupiers, Create-ability and Variety of Vintage, are working at securing a long term lease of their own in the town under a new joint name, Sew Very Vintage. An earlier popupster, Mrs B Designs Ltd, is working with another recent High Street independent arrival, Feather and Nest. In December the pop up theme was further continued by returning Wallingford record store, Music Box, as it popped up in a long-term empty unit on Castle Street. We’re hoping that another business we’ve long talked to about starting up here is now close to agreement for a unit of its own.