Millions of new retail shops

by Nicholas Russell

Boulevard Berlin launch We walked from the main part of the shopping centre, to the Pop Up Village.  We passed clean, orderly stores – shoe retailers, a lingerie shop, a café.  Throbbing deep house music gradually replaced the ambient jazz.  Crossing the threshold into the village, everything changed.

A store with a giant boom box painted and objects made from retired jeans.  Another space had a pastoral forest on the wall, an old leather couch, and a phonograph playing.  I looked back at the mall behind, and felt I stumbled on something creative.  Truly special and unique…” 

Boulevard Berlin
In April 2014, We Are Pop Up launched The Pop Up Village at Boulevard Berlin, in Germany.  Boulevard Berlin sits in a pre-war building in the upscale Stieglitz neighbourhood.  The name comes from a public thoroughfare through the shopping centre that connects Schloßstraße with Harry Bresslau Park.

Corio – the owner of shopping centre – is one of Europe’s most forward-thinking property groups. Gerard Groener saw early on that the European retail leasing market demands new thinking.  Consumer incomes remain under pressure, and brick-and-mortar retailers suffer from the explosive growth in online retail.

From London with love
Working with Corio, the We Are Pop Up team developed the concept From London With Love.  Eight independent British fashion retailers coming to Berlin, trading for a few months in one of Berlin’s busiest districts.  For the retailers, From London With Love represented the opportunity for British entrepreneurs and SMEs to test continental Europe’s hottest retail market.

When we started We Are Pop Up, it was difficult for London-based small businesses to find short-term prime retail property in London.  Foreign geographies were unthinkable.  Now, there are over 1,000 short-term retail spaces available in London, and our brands are traveling to Berlin.

The world is flatter
Ten years ago, Thomas Friedman wrote The World Is Flat – a sweeping overview of globalisation.

“In a flat world, where value is increasingly created, and complex problems solved, by whom you connect with.”

In the decade since, software platforms emerged, directly connecting people to create new opportunities in specific sectors. Thanks to AirBNB, the self-catering holiday market now rivals multinational hotel chains.  Kickstarter has channelled $1B in funding to independent creative producers.  In the last year alone, the price of a BitCoin has increased 10% month-on-month. Furthermore, thousands of other platforms – across every sector – chew away at structural inefficiencies and archaic processes.

The rise of lean retail
In January 2012, Dr. Alastair Moore and I sat in the Crown pub on Monmouth Street, discussing what an AirBNB for retail property would look like.  The idea gave millions of brands and entrepreneurs the opportunity to experiment with prime retail spaces, from High Streets to shopping centres. At the time, empty shops dotted every London neighbourhood.  Old retailers like Jessops fell, and nothing new rose in their place.

Then, Homeslice’s food truck turned into a Neal’s Yard restaurant.  Fashion boutique Wandering Minds started with six weeks in BOXPARK Shoreditch, and now has three stores – two in London and one in Berlin.

Independent brands renew the shopping centre
From London With Love launched on a Thursday evening.  Moore and I leaned over a railing and toasted champagne.  Through We Are Pop Up, eight independent British brands launched shops in an upscale Berlin shopping centre.

Moore looked around, surveying the village.  Compared with the other shops in the centre, our retailers had an artisan quality.  Murals painted on walls.  Vintage furniture.  Products not found anywhere else in Berlin.

“Now this is cool,” Moore said.

From management consultant to barista: Tim Baker’s Brew Bar Coffee in Camden

Tim Baker from Brew Bar Coffee House at 11 Camden High Street shares his pop up story with us.

In my job as a management consultant, I had moments where I realised I didn’t want to go further with it. People earn good money and have done well but there’s no way I wanted to do it. I really hate management speak. I had this idea bubbling away for a couple of years for a brew bar. I always had the idea, but never saw how I was going to do it.

I considered working in coffee shops. I also looked at various websites at long term shop lets, but I saw no way I could do that. You often have to pay a premium. If I drove past somewhere empty that looked good, I’d ring up the agents, but never with any belief I’d be able to do it.

I saw We Are Pop Up and had been on a few times and saw this place in Camden. I went there and sat outside, and counted the footfall. I was happy. It was an empty property which was nice.

I went on the website and sent a message straight to the landlord. After only a couple of messages, I set up a viewing. I didn’t know what I was looking for, but I asked questions – the history of the building, the fees. I brought with me a builder which was quite useful – he could ask questions and point out any flaws. Then I went back with an interior designer. After two visits, I was happy to go ahead.

In some ways I did just close my eyes and sign. I thought, it’s only three months, so I jumped in. I didn’t want to continue doing the things I’d been doing previously. The landlord was ready to go. He did pull it for a day because it was all too quick!

I signed with an electronic signature. It was all seriously simple. I tried to make sure all the communication is on the site itself because that’s a good legal record.

Doing it on a three month license meant less risk, and I could make mistakes. There are mistakes you need to make if you’ve not run a coffee shop before.

Brew Bar interior

I did the space up in eight days. It looks quite good because I haven’t done a lot to it. It has an urban industrial feel, with concrete floors. I did it very cheaply, but I have to recover that in three months or accept the loss. There’s a negotiation between you and the landlord about what you can and can’t do. There have been minor problems, but he got someone to fix them. He put my shop sign up because he happened to have a handyman nearby, which was nice.

Brew Bar sign

The original plan was to have a proper coffee brew bar, where the first thing you see is a syphon and filter. But brewing coffee this way takes time, so I offered other options for people who want their coffee quickly.

The real focus is coffee but after opening I very quickly realised I needed food. I used We Are Pop Up to get the food side going. It brings people into the shop. I made the window space of the shop an area for food businesses, like a market stall at lunchtimes. I’ve had four different ones so far. I’ve used We Are Pop Up both as a tenant and landlord, to sublet that area.

Brew Bar food

Wifi was a real hurdle. The broadband companies want you to sign up for a year. I got a really big dongle instead, and that’s worked.

A lot of customers have come back because we were flexible at the beginning, adding food and different types of milk, like almond milk and lacto-free. It’s important to be flexible and willing to listen to what people want. But you have to balance that with consistency. For example, the heat of our coffee. Some people like it hotter, some cooler. You have to find the right balance between being flexible with customers, and developing the way you’re known for doing things. We chose an optimum temperature and stuck to it.

Brew Bar coffee

Setting up a bank account was one of the biggest challenges. Banks don’t quite understand digital documents, so I had to sign a paper lease to get a bank account.

It can be difficult to get answers out of the council, like for outside seating prices.

I’m not 100% sure if I’m going to renew, but I’ve got the option. I could go and use everything I’ve learned somewhere else, or stay here. That’s the great thing about pop ups, trying something out in a short period of time. I couldn’t have done it without We Are Pop Up.

Want to launch your very own coffee house? Or any other pop up for that matter… Head to our website and check out the hundreds of spaces currently looking for tenants, here.

Pop Up Shop Interview: 5 Questions with Pop Up Ping Pong

What is your pop-up history to date?

Pop Up Ping Pong has been in operation since the beginning of this year plotting our first pop up. Our launch event had such a great turnout with a classic American frat party vibe, people just turned out in their masses and made the most of what we had – Ping Pong tables, cheap booze, awesome street food burgers by #BRGR ( and shaped the party as much as we did to make it happen. So at one point we had people asking if they could put together some tables so they can set up a Beer Pong match, without knowing too much about the rules or the consequences we rustled up whatever we had in storage and put out a make shift table and watched the ants take over the ant hill! We’ve incorporated Beer Pong ever since as testament to our first customers and you can come to any of our pop ups now and see hulking crowds teeming over our dedicated tables complete with regulation markings. So that’s how the story goes, and we’ve been popping up and at ‘em ever since!

Why pop up?

*Rolls sleeves up* Pop Up is the way of the future. As I heard Daniel Young ( pop up entrepreneur once say, and I quote, ‘pop up restaurants are restaurants with no walls’. This applies to any pop up business or art. We are obliged never to settle and always aspire to create a new experience for our customers. This agenda is simply dictated by the economics of having ‘no walls’. As a pop up you’re not burdened with the overheads of rents, gas, electricity, wages, but for the period in which you use your space. You are only committed to use your space as long as you wish and this gives us the freedom to create. It almost forces you to be artistic and ‘things to do’ in London are better for it!

Why did you decide to enter the Collective Competition?

This may sound a little evangelical but we thought with a high street location we could really do something special for that part of Camden High Street. We’ve spoken a little about this at Pop Up Ping Pong and we’ve always loved the idea of Camden. It’s a hotchpotch of what’s trendy and cool and there’s always something a little bit romantic about that. Problem is it’s not always been that accessible for the rest of us! Koko has been a shining beacon on one end of the high street in that respect. They always have something good on that you can see with friends or on a date but somewhere along the middle of the high street the buzz dwindles and we think we can add to it with a bit of sparkle. People often meet for the first time over a game of ping pong at our events and that’s quirky but we like it!

What can people expect to find in the Collective shop during your spot?

The PUPP Shack is a boutique-style ping-pong pop-up parlour featuring one Olympic-sized table combined with a street food diner offering dainty and delicious sliders by mini burger purveyors #BRGR. They use the finest ingredients, with their golden brioche buns sourced from Miller’s of Wimbledon and their grass-fed beef from The Ginger Pig butchers. A drinks bar will also be featured, with the legendary PUPP beer pong table (complete with regulation size and cup markings) making a stalwart appearance alongside it. Throughout the course of the four-day pop-up, expect events ranging from sporting competitions with prizes to ping-pong masterclasses and more.

How would you incorporate 300 bananas, 5 tons of golden syrup and 2 peacocks into a future pop up?

It would be a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory/Great Gatsby themed extravaganza no doubt!

Announcing the Winners of the BOXPARK + WE ARE POP UP Competition…

London Loves LA

Launching the competition 9th November, BOXPARK Pop Up mall joined forces with We Are Pop Up to offer a FREE shop for three months over the holidays! Creatives, designers, cooks, artists, and business owners were invited to submit their concept for the chance to win a free unit set to run from 1st December to the 28th February. Having received well over 100 applications, the competition attracted a spectrum of ideas, and proved that having a retail space in the heart of East London is an incredible opportunity.
As a bespoke online boutique dedicated to delivering hand-picked, high quality American Vintage, BOXPARK are excited to announce London Loves LA as the winner of a free pop up unit! Created by two sisters, Sophie and Ella Berman incorporate the nostalgia of a road trip wrapped up in teenage excitement and friendship with girly yet grungy, 90’s Americana vintage selections directly from LA.

Runners Up

In addition to the winner, BOXPARK are pleased to announce two runners-up in the competition, and each will receive a free unit for the month of December. Selected are China Doll Boutique, creators of wearable, dainty, and feminine pieces with a whimsical feel, and Finchittida Finch, distinctive designs, made in London, inspired by Laos.