Neighbourhood Pop-Up.

I read an article recently on the website Trend Central which outlined a fantastic case study about a neighbourhood in Oakland California that had been fundamentally transformed by a new form of pop-up retail called “PopUpHood”.

Basically the idea was a collaborative community engagement that saw an area under stress completely revitalised through retail. The plan was to gather a group of unique, interesting and passionate retailers together into a strip, to offer them free rent for six months and to mutually pursue attracting visitors through dynamic magnetism, social media and word of mouth.

The retailers were all like-minded, mainly start-ups or independent entrepreneurs looking to sell differentiated products and services on everything but discounts.

It has been a phenomenal success at transforming an entire community.

Part of the problem for new entrepreneurs in our contemporary era is the competitive context in which they often find themselves, having to fight on attributes they are ill equipped to compete on. This idea ensures a collaborative context where retailers share a vision and the customers they attract (and the mind set with which they shop) are in alignment.

This is an idea that could foster the renaissance of unique Australian retail in hubs like Sydney’s Paddington that are dying rapidly.

The only problem – as I see it – will be getting the landlords to unite in a strip or neighbourhood in a way that facilitates it. However, commercial pain may take care of that issue. For as we all know, even the most intransigent landlord has a way of rationalising the medicine that is forced upon them for a disease that is rapidly deteriorating from a conceptual diagnosis to agonising symptoms.

Think of an area like Paddington back to its bohemian roots and weeded of any bland, repetitive national chains or commoditised discounters.

A mix of interesting owner / operators each with fascinating and romantic stories; experiential stores; and unique merchandise. A hub that attracts people who love to shop for something magical while drawn to the social hub that makes it a real connection point.

“PopUpHood” sounds like a great way not only to re-set a local community but a way to re-set grass roots Australian retail. In the new era we won’t be able to compete with big international retail businesses on price. We won’t be able to compete with them by following globally packaged trends.

But we will win in the politically contrived world of open market competition through what makes us – in the words of Jack Trout – better and different in the hearts and minds of the customer. “PopUpHoods” could be the start of something big.