Sook, provider of award-winning adaptive retail spaces, opened a new space on Oxford Street in London last week. The 755 sq. ft. store, located a stone’s throw away from Tottenham Court Road and in close proximity to countless flagships on what is Europe’s busiest shopping street, is the second London location from the brand. It also runs a space in Cambridge’s The Grafton, with additional locations in the pipeline in Edinburgh and South Kensington.
Sook is the ultimate flexible retail platform, giving people and brands access to sought after retail space in central London and other UK cities without the need for long-term commitment and expensive fitouts. It works on a model of transforming empty shops into adaptive and digitally interactive spaces, which are then rentable by the hour. By removing the inefficiencies and costs of taking on retail space in the traditional way, Sook’s model removes the barriers of the high street for brands and provides landlords an option for leasing empty space at a time when there are more vacant units on the high street than ever before. By opening up space for a diverse range of uses and allowing the same unit to be used as a pop-up shop, an art exhibition, a yoga studio and an event space, all in the same day, it lays the foundation for a vibrant high street that goes far beyond retail – reflecting an important shift in how we view the purpose of the city centres of the future.
As a demonstration of this, Sook had a somewhat unusual tenant over the weekend as its South Molton Street in Mayfair was hired for a marriage proposal. On Saturday evening, the 375 sq. ft. space had been fitted out with images of the couple, a snow machine and a small band playing acoustic music. As the would-be fiancé went down on one knee outside the store, its digital screens displayed a ‘Will you marry me?’ message. This creative use of what was once a vacant store unit speaks volumes to the UK high street still being relevant in different and unexpected capacities.
John Hoyle, CEO and Founder of Sook, commented: “Pre-Covid, there were 50,000 empty shops in the UK, with the number likely to grow to 150,000 by the time the pandemic is over. By building the world’s most adaptive retail space, we are offering a solution for landlords struggling to lease vacant stores, while giving anyone the opportunity to find a space to do their thing whenever they want – demonstrated by this weekend’s marriage proposal, which is a true testament to the flexibility and potential of these retail spaces.”
Sook’s spaces have previously been used by a diverse set of tenants including renowned photographer David Yarrow hosting an art exhibition, Wonder Festival launching its SoBar sober social events service and pop-up stores by various retailers including ethical food and products company Full Circle, pop-up vintage clothing store Serpentine Swap and regular customer unpckd, a start-up promoting sustainable and waste-free shopping. The spaces are also frequently used for yoga and open mic events.