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Retail Design Expo 2015: Boxpark to set up in Croydon

Boxpark, dubbed the world’s first pop-up mall, is to open up another site next summer, in Croydon, which will encourage independent brands to open up stores in the area.

Shoreditch is home to the original site made from shipping containers, but the temporary structure which opened up in 2011 in East London, only has 18 months left on its lease. The Croydon site has permission to open for three years before developers move in.

Speaking at Retail Design Expo 2015, Boxpark founder Roger Wade says the thinking behind the pop-up mall is to create a space that is different to standard high-street bricks and mortar stores. “It’s really a home for independents. What we could see happening in the market is that every high street was the same. Whether you went out shopping in Bristol or Brighton, it was dominated with Boots, JD Sports and Hennes. Independent brands were increasingly being squeezed out.

The Shoreditch Boxpark is home to both independent and larger brands. Gap has opened a store there, although it has been designed to look like an independent store. Many brands in the East London mall have opened up a physical store for the first time.

Wade, who founded fashion label Boxfresh, says the key to creating a successful shopping site is to think about the customer experience. “We believe retail is about entertainment – nothing can replace the touch and feel of being in the store. Buying online is like watching fireworks on TV. You can’t touch and feel the clothing, you can’t see the true colour way of the clothing.”

He advises: “Bring back the entertainment in retail. Think about the customer experience and the customer journey. Do you offer free events? At Boxpark we offer events 52 weeks of the year for free… In this increasingly digital age, the kids of today are trying to find things that make them feel special.”

The Shoreditch site is set up so that all the stores have access to an omnichannel system, whereby customers can shop in store, online or via their mobile, and this will be used for the Croydon site. But Wade warns that retailers should set their sights on “sensible technology” which benefits the customers rather than focus attention on technology and social media fads.

“Build a digital business. At Boxpark, we’ve built a revolutionary system that allows our customers to buy in store, online and on mobile. It’s based around an ecommerce system.

“Don’t get carried away with believing in a Twitter world. It is also becoming increasingly difficult to engage with fans on Facebook now because now we have to pay for the privilege of putting a message out.  We really believe in our email database, as no one is every going to turn up and charge us to engage with our database,” he adds.