Pop-ups are bringing new life to shopping streets around the country, writes ALANNA GALLAGHER
From the side streets of central Dublin to the high streets of the country’s towns and cities, empty shops – many built during the boom and not yet let – sit like scars on a battle-weary retail landscape. While Dublin’s prime shopping streets have maintained a low vacancy rate, elsewhere the figures make for grim reading, with more than 18 per cent of retail units left empty in Athlone, more than 16 per cent in Limerick city and 13 per cent in Cork city. But it’s not all doom and gloom.
The rise of the pop-up shop is helping reclaim the high street and putting the theatre back into retail, with vacant shops offering short-term opportunities to enterprising individuals. The concept, setting up a temporary shop for a few weeks, is a savvy way to experiment in business and works for established names and newbies alike.
There are two ways to work a pop-up shop, according to Michael Harrington, head of retail at commercial property adviser’s CBRE. “One is to set up a temporary shop to test a retail location by selling as much stuff as you can. This is generally done as a Christmas lease. Or a pop-up is done as a brand initiative, to promote awareness of a product or service.”
The Kilkenny Shop, which popped up on Grafton Street, is a good example of the former, testing a location with a high pedestrian volume before committing to a longer lease. Maoliosa Murray, who last month set up a temporary shop selling fashion and furniture not on sale in Ireland, in a Georgian building on Fitzwilliam Street, Dublin 2, is an example of the latter.
“The attraction of a pop-up is its originality,” she says. “Nine out of 10 times they are secreted away in hidden locations to take advantage of brilliant spaces. It’s an exciting way to test the market and get a brand out there in a finite amount of time.”
There are pop-up clubs and restaurants, too. Joe Macken’s pop-up eateries – Crackbird in particular – have been well-documented. Pichet’s Stephen Gibson will present a night of fine dining at Tattersalls Country House, in Ratoath, Co Meath, for one night only in February. And farther afield, Silencio, the louche Paris lounge of filmmaker David Lynch, opened a pop-up club at the Delano Hotel at Art Basel Miami Beach in Florida.
Is there any sign of the phenomenon abating? Owen O’Doherty, deputy city architect at Dublin City Council, thinks not. “It keeps the streets active, increases footfall and prevents the urban blight of empty shop fronts.”
Between now and Christmas there are plenty of temporary shops to pop into. Here are our favourites (all end December 24th unless otherwise stated).
Christmas Boutique – 12 Days in Ranelagh
Ranelagh Arts Centre, 26 Ranelagh Main Street; klickity.ie
Run by Elizabeth Fingleton, the business brain behind the design house Klickity, this pop-up sells Arty Smarty jewellery, Brook and Shoal candles, jewellery by Filip Vanas and Karl Sweeney, accessories and stationery by Ursula Celano, Per Dozen Design dishes and Headbangers helmet covers for children. Open 11am-6pm from Wednesday until December 23rd, with late opening until 8pm on Thursdays. See Facebook for more.