The High Street is Dead, Long Live the High Street

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From Raspberry Pi, Depop, Newcastle United FC and Universal Music Group to Jägermeister UK, Sisters and Seekers Ltd and TikTok, discover how Sook spaces are bringing life back to high street.

A few things that Brits love (allegedly): Discussing the weather. Drinking tea. A queue.

Stereotypes aside, here at Sook we really DO love a queue. Nothing makes us happier than seeing lines of customers snaking out of the doors of our spaces - and we’ve had some pretty impressive ones over the last couple of months (despite the rain and lack of hot beverages).

So, without further ado, here are just a few of the brands that have captured the attention of customers recently and brought life and excitement back to the high street - as evidenced by the large numbers of people waiting to get inside our spaces…

Sook pop-up queues

Sook favourite Raspberry Pi has repeatedly proved its cult status by drawing large numbers of people to its pop-up events at Sook Metrocentre Gateshead, St James Quarter Edinburgh and London - with customers lining the streets to get their hands on the brand’s micro computers and accessories.

Social selling platform Depop brought its best-known sellers - and the crowds - to Sook Oxford Street for three days, for the launch of its Powered by Depop initiative - proving that even the largest online businesses need physical space (and that noughties 'vintage' is a HUGE draw for Gen Zers - who knew?!).

Newcastle United Football Club star Allan Saint-Maximin brought Metrocentre to a standstill on two separate occasions as he showcased Mantikor headbands and his own HELIOS card game to hordes of SUPER excited fans at Sook Gateshead.

Universal Music Group's hip-hop collective D Block Europe held a one-day pop-up event at Sook Oxford Street, with fans queuing outside to get their hands on branded merch - despite the band not being in attendance, and only appearing via the Sook digital screens.

Jägermeister UK transformed Sook Oxford Street into an ‘IceCold Supermarket’, showcasing the perfect temperature to serve its iconic spirit, which was promoted extensively across Insta and TikTok. The spirit brand also hosted a pop-up nightclub in our basement space, attended by influencers and reality stars.

Fashion brand Sisters and Seekers Ltd, beloved by A list celebs (hello, Hailey Bieber) and Gen Zers, met customers at Sook Birmingham (below) - with many keen to get their hands on the Sisters' perpetually sold-out 'Yoga' hoodie. (Editor's note: Please get in touch if you can source one for me 🙏😂).

Multiple TikTok and Instagram influencers flex their follower muscle to bring HORDES of customers to our spaces for their charity and second-hand fashion sales - read on to discover more...

So why the surprise when customers queue on the high street? Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, crowds like these are not regular occurrences. After all, boarded-up shops, generic chains, and American candy stores don’t inspire loyalty (or crowds). However, there is a solution. 

But first, what is causing the decline of physical retail? We don’t need to dwell on the legacy of the pandemic and the challenges posed by online, but spiralling business rates, inflexible leases and a lack of opportunity are the biggest barriers to entry for many brands with limited or no physical space.

And now the sell: This is why Sook is working with landlords across the UK to offer space in premium shopping locations, available when you need them, where you need them, for however long you need them. No strings attached. And this approach is working.

Let’s take Sook Oxford Street, for example. Since opening in 2020, the space - and the multiple brands and pop-up events it hosts - has brought hundreds of thousands of people to the area - often generated purely by the power of social media. We won’t be forgetting influencer Olivia Neill (and friends) shutting down the street during her charity pop-up for Stand Up To Cancer in a hurry. Particularly when police and Westminster council showed up just to manage the sheer numbers of customers desperate to get their hands on the influencers' second-hand clothes.

Compare this to the many shops sitting empty on Europe’s 'busiest shopping street': the once great Topshop flagship (itself a venue for many a Kate Moss-inspired queue back in the day), now a symbol of Arcadia’s fall from grace; music mecca HMV relegated to an aforementioned candy shop; and the House of Fraser department store a sprawling, empty shell. Proof, if proof was ever needed, that - post-Covid - shoppers are demanding that things are done differently.

For us at Sook, it’s obvious. We’ve proved time and time again that if we can make high street space open and accessible, and it is used repeatedly, by all sorts of occupiers, we can bring life, customers and money back to the UK's flailing high streets. DTC brands testing an omnichannel approach to sales; big businesses looking to trial a new location; influencers staging launch events for their side hustles; small businesses looking to meet their community: Sook has space for all.

Driving economic recovery and retail renaissance is a long road, but all we need is the will to look at things differently. We're certain that the high street is heading towards a bright future - it's just different from the past we've all become so accustomed to. We're already on the journey and we'd love for you to join us.

Find out more at the Sook website, or by contacting the team here.

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