Emerging Project

High Street Incubator

Idea: Retail Incubator, potentially community-led with a Town Team HQ

A retail hub that provides low cost, low risk test trading for business start-ups.

This project provides intermediate space for SMEs or entrepreneurs who might have already been trading on the Market, or online. The incubator provides the starting space to test and learn, then grow into their own unit. In addition, it could offer training, business support, and events and meeting space for local groups, supporting both a lively high street and evening activity. Co-locating the Town Team would give them a public face, and enterprise role – both in the space and on the high street to coordinate future activities. The space could act as the ‘go-to-point’, fulfilling the local desire for ‘an information point’.

There are a few different models for how retail incubators are set up, from traders renting a white box/shelf space (membership payment), to sub-divided space (sub-lease).

Why it is useful:

  • Seed new businesses, and support new jobs and the local economy
  • Scaling micro businesses into other empty high street units
  • Encourage community and evening activities on the high street
  • Provide what the market can not, e.g. low cost, high street trading space to sustainably grow local businesses
  • Increase footfall to the high street
  • Potential to support a Town Centre Curator, both managing the space and working across the high street to improve local business and community opportunities.

Who needs to be involved:

  • Town Team: Lead
  • Council: Support / Seed Fund
  • Local business start-ups: Applicants
  • Link with Barnet Market and its start-up pitches
  • Other potential partners: Teenage Market, Barnet & Southgate College, Middlesex University

How to get started:

  • Test idea with local start-up businesses, online / market traders
  • Develop and test business case
  • Consult with council for support

Viability considerations:

  • Funding opportunities: Retail incubators play an important part in stimulating business growth and the long-term economy of the high street; however, market rent and rates can make them unsustainable. Therefore, any options for reduced rents and rates relief should be explored. Generally require seed funding to cover the first 12-24 months. Explore future GLA / government funding e.g. High Street recovery programmes, also the Power 2 Change Fund which supports community businesses. Allow for 2 years running costs (approx. £75-150k if full market rate and rates)
  • Site Ownership: More sustainable if the council is the landlord or hold a third party lease on behalf of the project
  • Resource: Requires time and skills

Example: Made in Ashford

Made in Ashford is a community-led shop run by Craftship Enterprise Community Interest Company (CIC). Based in the Ashford Borough Council owned Park Mall shopping centre, it has successfully showcased the work of 50 individual artists, and incubated other small enterprises and new high street businesses. It is also one of the longest running organisations delivering community-based craft and creativity activities in the area. The shop has become a ‘destination’, successfully attracting people who would not necessarily choose Ashford high street as a shopping centre, thereby benefiting other local businesses and supporting the town’s regeneration.

Made in Ashford has evolved from a pop-up shop into a creative hub for the whole community. By offering a platform for local creatives to sell their work, they in turn share their skills with the local community through workshops and projects. Craftship Enterprise has forged strong relationships with a variety of other businesses on the high street and actively supports town events.

The strong relationship with the Council has been significant, from initial funds to re-fit the shop to the commissioning the shop manager. They predict requiring a level of supportive funding from the Council for at least five years. Currently, they are exploring more financially sustainable business models, including moving to a larger space to provide more workshop space for craft courses and small-business development support. In addition, looking to include studio space for rent and the potential to have specialist art equipment for local artists, schools and colleges to use.