Campaign to throw open empty high street stores to start-ups

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YORKSHIRE’S small businesses are being urged to play a major role in a national movement which aims to re-open hundreds of high street stores.

The newly-formed ‘PopUp Forum’, which includes Dan Thompson from the Empty Shops Network and Emma Jones, from national enterprise campaign StartUp Britain, have approached the administrators of HMV and Jessops with a plan which could give thousands of British start-up firms an affordable base on the high street.

Ms Jones said: “We’re working with the administrators’ lawyers to contact landlords and find out if we can take control of a percentage of the newly-closed shops with a view to offering affordable retail spaces to small and start-up British retail businesses, on a rolling basis.

“Last year may have been a bad year for big retailers, but it was a record year for British start-ups. Our local high streets are in trouble – and yet what small retail business wouldn’t give their right arm for the chance to trade in their own communities, generating sales and awareness of their brand?”

Mr Russell added: “The job of administration is a long and arduous process that can take years. What we’ve asked for is the chance to throw open boarded-up shops for an agreed time to small businesses, and give consumers the chance to support British enterprise.” Under the PopUp Britain initiative, six small businesses and start-ups can co-fund and co-work in a retail space for two weeks at a time. A specific pop-up lease has been developed to cover legal issues. A successful pilot in Richmond, Surrey, saw more than 60 businesses take up a space in five months,

A spokesman for StartUp Britain said it was hoped that PopUp Britain Stores would be created across Yorkshire.

A number of Yorkshire retailers had already expressed an interest in the PopUp Britain concept, including the Leeds-based business Love me Sew, which is run by old school friends Emily Carlill and Sam Lowe. Ms Carlill said PopUp Britain sounded like a “great opportunity” for start-up businesses.