BOXPARK Shoreditch – a year down the line, is it working?

Last Sunday, a friend and I headed to Shoreditch for coffee at Translate.

Afterwards we wandered to find a gallery – Rocket, which we never did find thanks to iPhone Maps!

Shoreditch has become über cool since I last went there. In this post, I’m talking about the pop-up shop concept that is BOXPARK. Businesses are trading, but I wonder if they have missed a trick.

So, I stumble upon BOXPARK and learn how the street used to be full of local traders and often homeless folks selling the little they have on railings and the pavement. I can see that Shoreditch has started attracting an affluent crowd; media and creative types, helped along by its proximity to Brick Lane. BOXPARK may have been an attempt to overhaul the street and uplift the area to ‘up’ the brand.

It’s made up of industrial, harsh black containers, virtually on a railway bridge and nearly busting out onto a busy road junction; aesthetically it fits into the environment very well.

A walk along the container shops, thinking out loud…  Great. Small businesses, interesting products. I begin to applaud the concept for getting onside of local business. Then I struggle to adjust to the retail feeling, as I see RayBan and Nike are part of the retail outlets. What is the deal? Either these retailers have jumped on low cost rent, outdoing the local traders, or the smaller businesses are paying a huge premium of rent to be there. BOXPARK, you are playing with my senses! I am more and more disappointed as I walk along.

Then, I notice the people on the other side of the street. There are the totally not ‘media types’, those scratching for a living, on the edge of society and struggling to get by, still selling their stuff on the railings. Hmm… I feel that they may have been dealt an injustice. The fit isn’t quite right for me.

Replacing or reviving the Shoreditch scene?

I wonder that the culture and ‘down beat’ scene it tried to replace is creeping back in? You just have look over the road! Peer over your salad and espresso, go on admit it, the ‘less privileged than you’ people are still there. It’s a shame how this retail concept hasn’t tried to embrace its roots and encourage the local people to do something with their entrepreneurial spirit. Instead it looks like Shoreditch has attracted high-end brands into a trendy container shops, rather than solve matters at heart in the local community. Couldn’t it have done both?

I think they could have been a little more innovative at the planning stage. Could they have created a way to allow those original traders (that don’t fit the ‘media type’ box) to be included, helped, educated, made to feel valued in their community?

All things said, I believe that retailers have a lot to learn from the pop-up shop concept. It doesn’t matter where you plonk them (obviously), as you can generate a retail storm by creating something different.

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