Pop up law? Dream on


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Pop-up retail parks, restaurants and even a bar selling bowls of breakfast cereal have proved that using vacant retail spaces or temporary structures to attract consumers is far from a passing phenomenon.

The second annual report into Pop-Up Retail by the Centre for Economic and Business Research estimates pop-ups now employ 26,000 people in the UK and generate revenues of £2.3bn, accounting for 0.76% of the UK retail sector.

Pop-up promises start-ups and larger companies looking to experiment with off-thewall brand extensions easy, flexible and cheap solutions, and can offer landlords stop-gap revenue or exciting new destinations which attract more permanent tenants.

But legal is the one part of the equation which doesn’t ‘pop up’ quite so easily.

“Tenants naturally expect a high degree of flexibility with pop-ups,” says Julien Allen, head of Trowers & Hamlins’ hotels and leisure group, “but in reality, many of the legal issues are exactly the same regardless of whether the tenant is there for a few weeks or many years.”

For the landlord, meanwhile, co-ordinating the varying needs and wishes of multiple tenants of very different business types can quickly become quite complex.

“If you’re looking to use pop-up to create retail destinations, rather than just to deal with idle real estate, you’ll achieve better returns and greater sustainability if you think about pop-up in strategic terms from the outset,” Allen adds.

"The lease – length, type, conditions – is the obvious place to start, but landlords need to think carefully about how to convert temporary income streams to more permanent ones, and how to achieve the best balance of occupancy while meeting their legal obligations and creating the best possible conditions for satisfactory yields.

“Pop-up represents the most creative thinking in terms of how to achieve best returns from your retail asset,” says Allen, “but can present challenges to other stakeholders in a mixeduse development.”

“The residential component of mixed-use development will often drive the commercial imperatives of the rest of the scheme,” explains Sara Bailey, head of residential real estate. “Residential developers, including social landlords, need to understand how the rest of the scheme will affect their calculations, and so the approach of a commercial landlord keen to use some kind of pop-up solution, whether on an interim basis or longer term, will be key to how quickly the development comes together.”

“Because everything else surrounding pop-up is about ease and flexibility, we can’t afford for legal to be the thorn in the honeypot,” says Julien Allen. “Fragmentation of management is generally something landlords dread, but careful planning and a streamlined approach with legal input up front can remove many concerns. Pop-up businesses are often less concerned with legal terms which can be tailored to short durations,” adds Allen.

“The best way to avoid this is to make sure that you cover the whole waterfront, as a law firm, with knowledge not just of how landlords and tenants operate, but also how lenders, local authorities and local communities are going to think,” he says, “and make sure that your various departments are working together as a single team.”

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