image caption58 Oxford Street, formerly home to a Wasabi sushi outlet, reopens as a “pop-up” shop next month
Shops are shutting and online sales are booming. Some lockdown rules have recently been lifted, but central London is not the bustling shopping destination it once was. Its status is under threat.
In this uncertain retail environment, several previously online-only entrepreneurs are soon to start trading from a “pop-up” shop in Oxford Street – which in pre-Covid times was Europe’s busiest high street.
Here, some of them explain why they’ve paid to spend between one and four days at 58 Oxford Street.
‘I need both’
image captionYugna Shah hopes to be able to dedicate herself fully to her hand-crafted chocolate business
Yugna Shah, who usually runs her online chocolate business The Painted Peacock from Harrow in north-west London, has signed up to spend four days on Oxford Street.
“I love central London. There’s always such as buzz,” she says.
The 38-year-old runs her business while also working as a tax adviser.
She hopes one day to dedicate herself fully to hand-crafted chocolate, and believes having a shop in central London is key to that – even though a permanent spot on Oxford Street “may be too expensive”.
“London is still very much a tourist destination, even if it is quiet now. And once tourists are back, you appeal to two markets: people buying gifts for loved ones and to eat themselves.”
She recognises the potential upside to trading in the centre of the capital, as “spending powers there are very different”.
“My business needs online and the High Street,” she says. “Online, the chocolates look pretty, but people want an all-round experience.”
‘I want to show it can be done’
image captionVictoria Jenkins says the “pop-up” shop will provide her with an opportunity to “test the water” of bricks-and-mortar retail
Victoria Jenkins runs Unhidden, a clothing brand for people with physical disabilities. She started selling online in November.
The Islington-based entrepreneur has signed up to spend a day in the shop as a way to “test the water”.
“What we’re doing is brand new. We’ve never sold on a London High Street before,” she says.
The 35-year-old says she thinks some customers want to be able go into a shop, so she is actively looking for opportunities for pop-ups or to open concession stands in big stores.
“The dream is to have a brick-and-mortar shop, but that’s more the three-year plan than the first five months,” she says.
“I am ambitious, but for now it’s just showing that it can be done.”
‘People want a unique experience’
image captionRebecca Saunders believes shops will need to stand out to survive
Unlike many of the entrepreneurs who will set up at 58 Oxford Street next month, Rebecca Saunders has experience of running a High Street shop.
During lockdown, though, she had to shut her health and beauty store, Seekology, in Richmond in south-west London.
“I’m really passionate about physical retail, especially with beauty,” says Rebecca, who has recently reopened her business.
Rebecca – who plans to show off her products in the Oxford Street shop for four days – thinks shops will need to stand out to survive.
“Retailers that offer the same old brands are not attractive to customers. People want to go somewhere where they get a unique experience.”
As for moving permanently into central London, the 40-year-old says she’s “open-minded”. “It depends a lot on people working from home and the volume of tourists returning,” she says.
“In the long term, central London is still attractive but local centres are also attractive too.”
‘Smaller brands can find it difficult to compete’
image captionThere’s a big appetite from small online businesses for a presence on the High Street, says Enterprise Nation founder Emma Jones
The “pop-up” scheme has been set up by business support provider Enterprise Nation and mobile point of sale company SumUp.
Online retailers moving into the shop will be provided with support to construct a “hybrid approach to selling”, according to Enterprise Nation.
The firm’s founder Emma Jones says there’s a big appetite from small online businesses for a presence on the High Street.
“While online selling is brilliant, some smaller brands tend to find it difficult to get the traction they need online and compete with larger brands,” she says.
“We think, going forward, retailers will develop a hybrid form of selling which might see them trading via their own website, on marketplaces like Amazon as well as on the High Street via pop-ups, all at the same time.”
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