A World First – Boxpark

  1. Rob
  2. February 14, 2011 12:24 pm

August 2011 will see the arrival of what’s being hailed as a unique retail concept, in the fashion centre of one of the world’s fashion capitals;

Shoreditch, London will play host to Boxpark, a pop-up mall of around 60 retail units created within recycled shipping containers.

The brainchild of Roger Wade, founder of streetwear brand Boxfresh, the concept is, perhaps a logical extension of the highly popular pop-up retail concept.

Pop-ups are nothing new, the business model has been used pretty extensively around the world over the last decade by brands large and small, as well as clubs and bars.

The big difference here is that this particular pop-up is not a single store, but a mini-mall or shopping village. Situated in a hot-bed of creativity, each container will house a retailer at the sharp edge of fashion and creativity. Not limited to attire, it’s suggested that products as diverse as bikes and books will also find a home here.

The land that Boxpark will occupy will eventually be redeveloped, but Wade and his partners have five years (at least) before developers move the diggers in.


Like any brilliant idea (and I believe this is genius), it’s not the concept but the execution that will prove to be the barometer of success.  If this is pulled off well, the project will become a retail phenomena that can be rolled out anywhere in the world where there’s a suitable space.

I assume some of the traditional shopping mall methodology will be applied here; the all-important “anchor stores” will be the first signatories (Jonny Hewlett of Diesel has shown a keen interest already), the cool, aspirational, niche elements will follow.

A danger here is that “too many” big brands may show interest, driving the rental prices up and excluding retailers who could really add a spark to the mix.

Personally, I think it would be a great idea to impose a financial limit to the cost of each brand’s shop-fit (or box-fit). This would really get the creative juices flowing, and would level the playing field.

I remember years ago the London fashion tradeshow TBC allowed just a few chrome rails and a tiny floorspace to all exhibitors. This meant huge brands had exactly the same exposure as a tiny start-up.  It was the most level of playing fields imaginable, which left the exhibitor’s product to “do the talking”, devoid of any shiny, crowd-pulling niceties.

The other (crass) extreme is big-budget companies trying to emulate a streety, earthy creative vibe – don’t you just cringe when you see the mobile phone ads with a cast of actors, singers and extras posing as a flashmob?

The location of Boxpark may become a focal point for all that’s great about London, East London in particular. There’s a tangible vibe of creative energy in the area. Fantastic retailers including Start (who got there very early), Present, and The Three Threads in and around Charlotte Street; Number Six and Son of a Stag off Brick lane; there are galleries, bars and Showrooms dotted around the area.

Hoxton Square has for a long time been a Mecca for fashion and creativity (although I find this little enclave a bit too cool for school, with a few too many sheep, and not enough shepherds), there’s room, undoubtedly for a shopping mall to serve the area’s demographic. The timing couldn’t be better, either, as London gears up for the huge influx of visitors (with their dollars, Yen, Euro et al) for the 2012 Olympics.

The recent launch of the concept (just across the road from the site at Shoreditch House) was a real buzz, with most of the conversation from the invited guests pretty positive, upbeat and receptive to this unique idea.

The typical British shopping Mall has become a pretty bland environment over the last 20 years. Some of them (not many) look OK from the outside, but the interiors have become bland, generic clones. Same old retailers, same old product, blah, blah… boring.

Hopefully, Boxpark will prove to be the antithesis of a typical UK mall, providing the buzz, creativity, originality and innovation that’s badly needed in UK retail.

Let us know your thoughts!!

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