‘Pop-up shops can save the high street,’ says Boxpark entrepreneur

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Roger Wade, the entrepreneur behind the Boxpark retail hub in Shoreditch, is spearheading a campaign to get more pop-up shops onto the UK’s high streets.

“I want government to help small independent shops by giving them small business rates relief for up to three months,” he explained. “This will encourage them to fill all these empty stores.”

There is, of course, an existing rates relief scheme already in place to help small businesses. But Mr Wade believes this initiative does not go nearly far enough.

“The existing rates relief system only applies to businesses in units where the rental value is less than £12,000 per annum,” argued Mr Wade. “You won’t find a single store in London for less than £12,000. We have some tiny units that are no more than 300 square feet at Boxpark and not one of those is worth less than that.”

As a landlord, Mr Wade has put his money where his mouth is to help pop-up shops get started. “I’m happy to give preferential prices or even free pop-up units for up to three months,” he said. “We’ve had more than 50 brands that have joined us on pop-up schemes which are sub rent.

“But even when I offer free rent many businesses still can’t afford the space because of business rates. Rates are payable from day one, and can be up to 50pc of the rental value.”

Mr Wade met up with the Parliament Select Committee (PSC) two weeks ago to present his case to Adrian Bailey MP. “Over 600 people have signed our petition, including people like Bill Grimsey, who leads the way on business rates reform. We also have 25 institutional supporters. Retail property developer Hammerson has added its weight to the petition.”

Government ministers recently defended their decision to delay a promised revaluation of business rates until 2015, claiming it would only have benefited the financial services industry and surveyors. However, Mr Wade hopes that by suggesting a single, targeted reform, his pop-up proposal will prove more successful than wider business rate reform.

“We have practical examples at Boxpark where we gave subsidised rent or free rent and those businesses turned into long-term tenants,” said Mr Wade. “Even government minister Brandon Lewis, who is in charge of the high street, is supporting our proposal.”

“The ball is in their court now. We’ve done our bit,” he added.

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