Clicks and mortar and the fun of the fair

Clicks and mortar and the fun of the fair

From the very beginning of online shopping 20 years ago, pundits have predicted that virtual and physical shops would somehow combine. Such predictions have become more frequent and complex with the advent of omnichannel retailing.

Last year there were some interesting experiments in making physical shopping feel like stepping inside a website: visiting  Hointer’s assistant-less store in LA was a case in point, as was Kate Spade’s Saturday store in Japan, with its giant touch-screen in the window that allowed you to make online purchases from the pavement.

There is less technology but just as many destined-to-be-borrowed ideas at Shop Up, the “live shopping event” currently being hosted by Babyccino Kids at Chelsea Town Hall on the Kings Road.

Babyccino Kids is portal run by three women, each of whom lives in a different European city, and works on the familiar sell-the-edit model. The portal specialises in the sort of tasteful, nostalgic children’s clothes and toys that have become popular with professional mothers. Realising that online shopping tended to offer convenience but deprived consumers of unexpected novelties of browsing independent boutiques, the owners search out interesting shops, and charge them to sell through the site.

The Shop Ups, the first of which was held last year, extends that into physical retail by allowing 40 suppliers to take stalls in Chelsea Town Hall; there is also a cafe, children’s entertainment and the inevitable free prosecco and macaroons. The atmosphere is that of the family’s section of an indoor village fete curated by Waitrose, and it is popular. Even shopping-averse dads – who are very much in the minority – might find something of interest in the book and vintage toy stalls.

Shop Up isn’t doing anything radical, but it does bring an energy and optimism to the High Street – admittedly a very affluent one – at a time when such qualities are in short supply.

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