How often have you been asked to spend time in your job removing something rather than adding? It’s actually really challenging and many people fail miserably at simplifying a complex issue.
But a trend is emerging where city Councils work to remove bureaucratic obstacles such as high license fees and onerous operating requirements, and allow small operators, start ups, artists and students to open their own retail store or shopfront in a temporary location, even if it’s just for a few days or a week.
There are many smaller operators who just need temporary space in order to promote their wares, refine their products or pitch, and get out there into the marketplace. Pop-up stores, whether they be stand alone prefabricated stores or simply empty space in a tenancy that hasn’t been let, offer a great opportunity for emerging businesses to get started.
What I’m loving about this trend is the range of benefits for community resilience. Here are just a few examples;
- activation of failed spaces; they bring new crowds and interest into urban places that have not worked;
- diverse street life; changing pop-ups over weeks or months add a new dynamic to the street – you never know what you’ll encounter;
- utilisation of idle floor space; much better for an empty shop to be used for something rather than nothing – it’s a subtle way of making the city more efficient;
- sparking local economy; some councils and even developers are offering low or no rent periods for pop-ups in order to help an area reach a critical mass of activity and visitors;
- they allow an agile demand and supply relationship to be maintained – if the market quickly decides it wants something else, the pop-up approach can rapidly evolve to cater for this, thereby making the local economy more robust;
- they tend to be more design / art focussed, further adding to the character and interest of a place;
- they are a low cost way to test retail or business configurations to see what works best in a location.
You might find it tenuous to link retail with sustainable cities, but the notion of a thriving, robust and diverse local economy is absolutely vital in making local communities more resilient, and this trend towards a more dynamic retail model is evolving our old sense of shop-based retail into something more like a community event.
There are even Council-led or privately developed programs that help build on this momentum, including free Apps that tell you what’s happening and where on any given day. Splash Adelaide is worth checking out to see how a Council might support this culture through digital platforms and social media – an enticing glimpse into a treasure-hunt future? I’m hoping that my next visit there will coincide with a fleet of mobile food vendors in the city : )
If you’d like to help get this thinking ‘out there’, please vote for Green Futures in the People’s Choice blog awards. Thanks!