Wellington Square ‘win a shop’ competition looks to nurture new retail talent
With Britain’s high streets having to work hard to survive – let alone thrive – in the current downturn, I was pleased to read about an initiative here in the North East that aims to bring something new and a bit different to one particular shopping centre.
Though the present high number of voids in our town centres means that there are some good rental deals to be had, the middle of a recession is surely still a scary time for anyone thinking about opening their first shop. Consequently, the ShopStart initiative – offering a prime, fitted-out retail unit, free of charge for a year, to someone with the right product idea and business plan – is likely to attract a lot of interest.
However, only one lucky winner – an entrepreneur, start-up business, market trader, or person recently made redundant – will have the opportunity to launch their retail business at the Wellington Square Shopping Centre in Stockton-on-Tees, with a planned opening in time for the Christmas shopping onslaught.
So, what exactly are the judges looking for? Let’s take a look at what the Wellington Square website says:
Applications are invited from a wide range of prospective retailers, some of whom may have been trading from home, individuals and fledgling businesses that will be given an opportunity to pitch their retail concepts to a panel of business experts…
The judges will be looking for innovative, sustainable business ideas that demonstrate the potential to succeed. Whether it is toys, hairdressing, pet grooming, food or baby products, ShopStart is the way for budding entrepreneurs to own and run a business in a successful North East shopping centre.
So, if you’ve got a great retailing idea but need help and advice to get it off the ground, this is your chance to make your application to be the North East’s next retail success!
There’s also the likelihood that the new shop will be something that brings real interest and value to Wellington Square, with the judges looking for “creative, innovative retail concepts”. The competition is certainly a bold move, but one that could pay dividends for the shopping centre, both in terms of positive PR and in – potentially – bringing something refreshing and distinctive to its retail mix.
Of course, a cynic might suggest that in the present climate, giving away a shop unit that would otherwise be empty is rather a no-brainer; after all, our high streets barely have a shortage of vacant shops at the moment. To be fair though, Wellington Square seems to be doing better than most, successfully attracting new lettings, and boasting a pretty strong tenant line-up that includes H&M, New Look, Marks & Spencer, River Island and Topshop among its major stores.
As always with such competitions, there’s some small print to be aware of, but a prize worth almost £60,000 – rent for the 674 sq ft unit close to WHSmith and Caffe Nero would normally be £42,500 a year, with another £16,247.50 in rates – can hardly be sniffed at.
For anyone who might be interested, the closing date for applications is 5 September 2009 – all the information you need, including the application form, can be found on the Evening Gazette website. Good luck!