High Streets have the potential to be vibrant, diverse parts of towns and cities. We hear so much – too much – that British High Streets have become tired and stagnant, but that’s changing.
The latest trend in retail, and one that we at Buy-From Britain definitely get behind, is the use of ‘meanwhile spaces’.
As the term suggests, meanwhile use of properties is temporary, making the most of spaces which are available for interim periods. While they can sometimes be used for longer periods of time, they’re not intended to be permanent.
The amount of time a meanwhile space is used varies on a case-by-case basis. For example, it might be used as a short-term space by a retailer for a few weeks as a pop-up shop, or it could be used by a group as part of a regeneration project which lasts decades.
Across Britain, independent retailers are using meanwhile spaces for a number of reasons. Whether because they want to test the waters with physical retail, run a limited-time shop with special offers, collaborate with other companies in a joint space or address a current need in the community – there are so many reasons to try it out.
Meanwhile spaces are affordable and flexible which are welcome, but unfortunately quite uncommon, qualities of the current retail industry.
With meanwhile spaces, the High Street can constantly change. Each space holder brings a new energy and style to the street, allowing a fresh new burst of variety during their stay.
And meanwhile spaces aren’t just for retailers. They can also be used as interim offices, spaces for community groups, artists and more. Often, they’ll be run with a particular cause in mind, whether it be supporting individuals or helping the wider community as a whole.
Whatever meanwhile spaces are used for, they’re a very welcome alternative to empty shopfronts. Particularly with the urgent housing crisis in Britain, the huge number of empty, unused spaces in the country is heart-breaking.
A recent report, published by Centre for London, found that there are over 20,000 commercial units in London which have been empty for at least six months. It also found 51 active meanwhile sites which had a combined floorspace of 188,600 sqm.
The number of meanwhile spaces in London might be very small compared to the number of empty spaces, but we hope to see that change. The report refers to London’s empty spaces as ‘untapped potential’, highlighting the opportunity for development of meanwhile spaces.
The meanwhile use of empty spaces can address a number of issues with quite a simple solution.
When spaces are available as interim periods, they allow businesses to have a shop with the security of knowing it’s not permanent; they help local people enjoy High Streets which are full and varied; and they help people across Britain address pressing issues which their community is facing.
Meanwhile spaces may not be permanent, but they have the potential to become a permanent approach to the use of empty spaces in Britain. No store space should be empty.