Pop-up shops on Sydney's Oxford Street signal start of retail renaissance

Walking down Oxford Street in Paddington less than two years ago was a painful experience for any avid shopper, with ''for lease'' signs and graffiti dominating the once high-end shopping precinct.

But the luxury boutiques, including Camilla and Willow, have been quietly re-entering Paddington.

And the catalyst has been pop-up shops along with the cheap rental that comes with them.

There are no large neon signs screaming ''pop up''. There are no makeshift clothing racks and there are no homemade signs offering bargains. Instead, landlords have begun to offer lower rents and shorter leases to encourage quality retailers back on to the high street.

Three months ago, there were 34 vacant shops. Now there are 14, according to the group Activate Oxford Street, which is funded by Woollahra Council.

''What started initially as a pop-up store has turned into a fully fledged boutique stocking my full range ,'' Camilla Franks said. ''I am so happy with the customer response on the area. And I'm very proud to be part of such an iconic shopping destination.''

Willow also opened an additional pop-up store in June where all items sold are on sale and no refunds are offered, while the well-known brand Max Mara has an outlet store further up the road that sells sale stock.

''[Oxford Street] is coming back with vengeance,'' an Activate Oxford Street spokeswoman, Sally Tremlett, said. ''We are really where people want to shop.''

Statistics from the City of Sydney also show 13 offices and four retail spaces were occupied under a pop-up scheme in Sydney, where empty or under-used buildings owned by the council were leased to ''creative tenants''.

''Short-term activation of empty retail spaces allows new business owners and brands to test new markets and products, and can create a 'destination' shopping experience,'' lord mayor Clover Moore said.

During the April to June quarter, visitors nearly doubled from 3430 to 6115, figures from the City of Sydney show. At one pop-up store on Oxford Street, The Pop Up Collective, artists, designers and fashionistas pay between $100 and $400 a week to hire a small space inside the 140-square-metre shop.

Designer Omar Alrawi started renting two shelves in the store to sell his shoes, Seer Footwear, about three months ago.

''Originally, I just went in for two weeks and then I realised it's good to get brand exposure,'' he said. ''The longer I stayed here, more people started to recognise the brand.''

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