Search

World’s first pop-up mall, Boxpark, opens in East End

PUBLISHED: 11:36 05 December 2011 | UPDATED: 12:08 05 December 2011

Boxpark has just opened its doors

Boxpark has just opened its doors

Archant

Shop owners in the East End have been boxing clever for an age but one businessman believes he has taken the retail experience to a whole new level.

This Saturday, Roger Wade saw his long-held dream of building a low-cost mall out of recycled shipping containers become a reality and, for him, Boxpark was always about offering something completely different.

With its 60 plus succinct, rectangular stores, all creatively laid out to offer something unique with the limited space they have, different it certainly is.

Built at the Goodsyard in Bethnal Green Road – a site which lay unused for 40 years – Boxpark is pitched as the world’s first pop-up mall as it only has a five-year lease before the owners of the land decide what to do with it.

But if the locals buy into Mr Wade’s vision, he says it could become a more permanent fixture.

“We feel most high streets and shopping centres offer the same thing and it’s getting boring,” the businessman said.

“When we choose a brand we don’t look at their funds or how many stores they’ve got, we look at the kind of brand they are. The big brands that are here, we’ve asked them to come and create something special with us.”

Rather than fear the fleeting nature of Boxpark, its creator says it is “low costs” and “short leases” that have attracted exactly the sort of retailers he wants in his mall.

He added: “The reality is, it’s very hard for small brands to be able to afford long leases and it’s difficult sometimes for them to get beyond the financial covenants required for big shopping centres.

“With Box Park it’s low-risk retailing. Stores can sign up for one year or five years.”

But there has also been a fair bit of “positive discrimination” towards independent stores, he adds.

“Some of the biggest retailers in the world have approached Boxpark and said they would bend over backwards to come here but we’ve said we feel there are enough places for them.

“In the case of coffee shops, we had interest from all the major coffee shop operators and we chose to go with a tiny operator that only has one other shop in Soho, Foxcroft and Ginger.”

Within the two-storey mall, there is a fusion of big brand names like Nike, Levi’s and Vans, alongside independent businesses.

For clothing brand Abuze, Boxpark is the first ever store.

Owner and creative director, Aleks Grabowski said it was the way his shop could compete on an “even-level” with the big brands that made Boxpark appeal.

He said: “We were operating online for seven years but we wanted to grow. We were looking at other locations but the fact we get given an empty box appealed to me because we are very careful about how our brand looks.”

Boxpark has provided another first for human rights charity Amnesty International which has set up its first shop selling artworks, homeware and books in collaboration with artists.

Sales team manager, Lara Woolston said the store provides a way to bring the charity into “people’s everyday lives through shopping”.

For Christopher Fung, managing director of juice bar Crussh, which has 22 other stores across London, pop-ups are perfect for trialling new ideas within a brand.

He said: “We’ve done many pop-up events and the great thing about them is it gives brands the chance to experiment. We’re looking into getting a permanent alcohol licence here. A sort of Crussh after dark.”

Boxpark may not have been around for more than two minutes but its founder has big ideas for the future and financial backing, too.

Just last week, telecoms giant Carphone Warehouse signed on as a silent partner and a fortnight ago the brand agreed on a joint venture to build another Boxpark in a location in Europe.

But if the big shots are interested now, won’t their enticing offers be hard to resist as the brand expands?

Mr Wade is adamant Boxpark won’t become another generic shopping complex trademark.

He said: “Even if we go to other areas, it doesn’t mean we’re selling out. If we go to Manchester we’ll approach local Manchester stores.

“We want to follow Selfridges and Liberties who travel the whole world looking for great brands.”

Alongside opportunities for independent businesses, more than 200 jobs have been created within the mall.

The desperation for jobs - Tower Hamlets currently has the highest unemployment rate among young people in London – played out on opening day, with youngsters turning up to hand in their CVs in a matter of hours after the sash was cut.

The local community’s response to the mall is key to its success, Mr Wade said.

“We want to expand. We might stay after the five years if the landlord decides not to develop. The local community have to decide, do they really want a long-term mall in that position?

“It’s the average person on the street who will choose whether Boxpark is successful or not.”

So, will you dare to think outside the box?

Latest East London News Stories

12:45

A campaign by parents to get children in Tower Hamlets reading early has led to a new school library being opened at Shadwell’s Bigland Green Primary.

11:46

A road safety campaign by pupils at a school in Bow has won backing from the mayor of Tower Hamlets.

Yesterday, 17:22

Police have begun using body cameras in Tower Hamlets with a mixed reception from the public.

Yesterday, 17:02

Patients at The Royal London and Mile End hospitals are facing cancelled appointments more than a week after their computer systems were hit by a cyber attack.

Yesterday, 13:20

Choirmaster Jonathan Pease is throwing the church doors open with champagne this spring bank holiday weekend for the public debut of the East London Evensong Choir he has set up on the Isle of Dogs.

Yesterday, 11:22

Today is the last day to register online so you can vote in the snap general election taking place on June 8.

Yesterday, 09:36

Hundreds of volunteers filled the moat of the Tower of London for the British Heart Foundation’s annual fundraiser.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

International hip-hop singer Cream turned up in east London last night to help raise cash for Macmillan Nurses charity at a packed Victoria pub at Mile End in memory of his best pal who died from cancer.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Most read news

Show Job Lists

Competitions

Having a brand new kitchen is something that lots of people want but can only dream of. Sadly keeping up to date and making our living spaces as nice as they can be is a costly and incredibly stressful business. Even a fresh coat of paint makes all the difference but isn’t easy or quick.

Who wouldn’t love the chance to go on a shopping spree. Imagine being able to walk into a shop and choose whatever your heart desires without having to worry about how much it costs.

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Docklands and East London Advertiser
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now