By Daniel Hunter

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) is giving a big boost to small retailers today (Monday) as it opens a brand new pop-up shop in its own headquarters.

As part of the government’s efforts to regenerate high streets and encourage entrepreneurs, the shop is being opened in time for final Christmas present buying this week by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles and Local Growth Minister Mark Prisk, with the support of national enterprise campaign StartUp Britain.

To directly support enterprise and showcase Britain’s best new retailers, ministers have set up the pop-up store inside their Victoria-based office building to act as a blueprint for high streets across the country to emulate through schemes such as Portas Pilots and Town Teams.

Mr Pickles unveiled the first ever Whitehall pop-up shop with ‘Apprentice’ winning entrepreneur Tim Campbell. Every fortnight six new British start-up businesses will move into the shop, sharing costs and trialling their exciting ideas.

The shop will be open to the public for at least a year and will offer affordable retail space to over 150 small start-up businesses. The department is not seeking any financial return from the shop, which is being supported by sponsors Intuit, John Lewis, SNR Denton and StartUp Britain.

Ministers believe pop-ups are a great way to get empty spaces used and could be easily replicated in other town centres across the country. Mr Prisk has written to the British Property Federation to urge landlords to get on board. He said that, starting in January, all 27 Portas Pilots and 330 Town Team partners will receive support to facilitate new pop-ups in their empty high street premises, which could support thousands of new businesses.

The government is committed to rejuvenating the high street. A multi-million pound strategy is backing local partnerships such as Portas Pilots and Town Teams to breathe new life into their town centres. This includes a doubling of small business rate relief; mentoring from retail experts; and workshops to address town centre challenges. A guide to opening a pop-up will be published soon and StartUp Britain has published a tool kit today.

The government is providing over £80 million of start-up loans for young entrepreneurs, which could create over 30,000 new businesses. Ministers are also changing planning restrictions so that landlords can alter how an empty shop is used for up to two years.

All these steps will make it easier for start-ups to find other low-cost stores to set up in. Last year 450,000 people set up new businesses and almost two thirds of new start-ups say they would benefit from trading on the high street.

Eric Pickles said: “We are absolutely determined to support the high street and we know pop-ups are a great way to bring empty shops back to life and get new businesses going, so we thought ‘why not open one right here in the department?’. It will also showcase how we can unleash more of our best and brightest young entrepreneurs onto the country’s high streets.”

Emma Jones, co-founder of StartUp Britain, said: “The PopUp Britain model gives retail entrepreneurs an affordable opportunity to scale up their businesses and become a part of their own high street.

“We’re seeing record numbers of people setting up businesses and they are starting out small and online. They are the driving force of the economy. This initiative offers them a chance to physically test out new markets as well as get their products in front of consumers and big buyers in a way that has never been available to them before.

“By actively encouraging local authorities to give start-ups access to empty shops across Britain, we hope it will help accelerate British enterprise as well as providing a vibrant addition to the local British shopping experience.”

Mark Prisk said: “There’s a real appetite in our town centres to get them revitalised so they remain attractive places to visit. And it’s not just talk: there are many extremely capable and serious people with some superb ideas; but they need a bit of help to get started.

“Pop-up shops are a superb way for all sorts of entrepreneurs to test their ideas. So I’m delighted that this department is opening the first pop-up shop in Whitehall and I look forward to inviting all 27 Portas Pilots and 330 Towns Teams here to see how they could replicate this model across the country in the new year.”

Apprentice-winning entrepreneur Tim Campbell added: “This is a brilliant idea and it is great to see the government actively supporting business in this way. For many aspiring and growing enterprises, having access to a retail unit where new propositions and ideas can be tested directly with customers can be the catalyst to increase sales. I hope other landlords follow this example.

“At the Bright Ideas Trust, where we invest in businesses started by young unemployed people, we see many business struggle to secure retail space as they grow out of their bedrooms and away from their kitchen tables.”

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