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Lack of technology holds back UK’s £2.1bn pop-up retail sector

The pop-up retail economy is expected to grow by 8.4% over the next year – but could be so much higher.

By Duncan Macrae

Pop-up retailers contribute £2.1bn to the UK economy each year (equivalent to 0.6% of total UK retail turnover) but poor access to technology is stifling their development.

The sector is expected to grow by 8.4% over the next 12 months, according to a study released today from economists CEBR and EE, a UK digital communications company.

An estimated 23,400 people work in nearly 10,000 pop-up shops across Britain, ranging from temporary restaurants and shops to product trials from recognised brands, and the industry is projected to grow nearly 2.5 times faster than the traditional UK retail market¹ in the next year.

However, the Pop-Up UK report reveals growth could be even faster, with CEBR stating that if the barriers to pop-up retailing were reduced, double digit growth could be easily achieved. One of the most significant barriers is a lack of access to technology, including waiting over two weeks for fixed-line Internet access.

Other significant barriers include a lack of flexible short term contracts, difficulty finding appropriate and flexible space, and obstructive business rates and rents.

Even during the 15th anniversary of the modern pop-up these barriers persist, which is why EE has partnered with marketplace for pop-up space, Appear Here, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and a range of pop-up entrepreneurs to launch the Pop-Up UK campaign.

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Spearheaded by Ross Bailey, the 22-year-old CEO of Appear Here, along with Mike Tomlinson, EE’s director of Small Business, EE’s Pop-Up UK campaign aims to help 3,000 entrepreneurs set up pop-up shops over the next 3 years.

One of the main features of the campaign is a 4G Pop-Up bundle, with EE is launching what it says is the world’s first mobile data offer specifically designed for pop-up retailers. This new bundle, which provides pop-ups with an instant 4G connection for 30 days and can include other products such as the iZettle payment card reader, aims to help entrepreneurs overcome key technological barriers by providing instant connectivity, temporary plan periods and a range of devices.

EE will also offer help through a dedicated helpline that will provide support on the technology needed to establish a pop-up shop.

Bailey said: "Pop-ups are the future of retail, and this campaign goes a long way to helping remove the barriers pop-ups are facing every day. Whether you’re a major retailer that wants to try out a new product line or just one person with a great idea – setting up a pop-up should be as easy as possible. This new Pop-Up UK campaign helps remove technological barriers plus helps connect entrepreneurs with their ideal pop-ups locations. However, there’s much more support needed to help pop-ups achieve their true potential, particularly from the Government."

Additional products available through EE for pop-ups include:

iZettle – card reader device which enables any pop-up to take card payments by linking the device with their phone.

Pocket Landline – a service which provides a local landline number that rings straight to a mobile ensuring that pop-ups never miss a call and have a local phone presence.

Smartphones and tablets – the latest 4G smartphones, tablets and gadgets, packed with extras and inclusive benefits.

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