FY 2021 GB Retail and Leisure Report: An interview with Sook
Date published: Date modified: 2022-04-19

Sook reactivates empty spaces with a modular digital fit-out that any occupier can quickly and easily tailor to their requirements. Renting by the hour, Sook maximises footfall and income for landlords whilst making it simple for occupiers to reach the right audience, at the right time, at the right price.

After the release of our FY 2021 GB Retail and Leisure Report, we caught up with John Hoyle, Founder of Sook, to reflect on the findings and what they mean for the future of retail and leisure spaces in 2022.

 

JH

LDC have been reporting increasing vacancy rates for some time, even prior to the pandemic. How does Sook as a concept play into this?


Sook’s concept allows people/brands/occupiers to choose when they would like to take space on the high street; what Sook sells is time. This addresses vacancies because it is often when retailers are committed to too much time that they have to close up shop. Commercial tenancies tend to last for a minimum of 12 months but the pressure of trying to make enough sales on the weekend to make up for the lack of footfall throughout the rest of the week can be too much. The key is flexibility which is something that landlords generally fail to cater for. Our thinking is that the most efficient use of high street space throughout the week could be something along the lines of a gym in the morning, a bank at lunchtime, an art gallery in the evening, and on the weekend the launch of a clothing brand’s new line.

Sook is now a tried and tested solution for both landlords and occupiers and our purpose is to continue combating high street vacancies up and down the country and eventually further afield.



What do you see as the biggest challenges faced by physical retail and leisure?

One of the biggest challenges that faces retailers today is exposure at the right place and time. The online marketplace is becoming increasingly saturated, so if brands are able to dip into a physical space now and again this issue can be addressed. However, as I touched on above, the obstacle that retailers often experience with operating from bricks and mortar is affordability. But that’s where Sook comes in: we exist to democratise access to retail space through a sustainable solution- a physical device that iterates- which allows occupiers and landlords to cooperate on fair and beneficial terms.



What do you think the future of physical retail looks like?

I am very optimistic. The retail landscape is looking a lot brighter this year with the easing of Covid restrictions in the UK. In January, retail sales rose by 1.9% which was 3.6% above pre-pandemic levels. A significant shift that we are already seeing in the retail landscape is the optimisation of the in-store experience to draw in customers. This optimisation includes elements such as digital walls, sophisticated consumer analytics, and personalised shopping experiences. Another change we are seeing is how a combination of physical and online retail can prove to be a very successful business model for retailers. Gen Z second-hand fashion sellers for example are proving this works time and time again; they sell on online platforms such as Depop and then host physical pop-ups now and again to create a buzz and sense of exclusivity around their brand.

I hope that the future of physical retail is more sustainable and more agile, and it is on track to be.



What is most surprising to you when you look across the key findings of our latest report?

The most surprising stand out for me is the increase in charity shops closures. Sook has exposed me to the rise in popularity in second-hand clothing which I had thought may have coincided with an increase in charity shops. However, it seems that the decline is due in part to a lack of volunteers - which must be covid related. Hopefully, this is a short-term blip - charity shops are an important part of the high street; aside from providing a source of income for charities, they help to support circularity in the fashion industry.



Sook is arguably trying to do something quite disruptive. What are your biggest ambitions for Sook?

Firstly, I would love to see a significant shift in the way that commercial landlords offer space. If they were to be more flexible with lease durations, there would be remarkable improvements in the prosperity of our town and city centers. The second ambition is for Sook to help more small, medium and large brands grow and thrive by giving access to time and space in the right locations. It would be brilliant for Sook and adaptive retail spaces to be widely recognised as a key solution for supporting the revival of the high street, not just in the UK but worldwide too.

 

Sook-Logo

 

Sook reactivates empty spaces with a modular digital fit-out that any occupier can quickly and easily tailor to their requirements. Renting by the hour, Sook maximises footfall and income for landlords whilst making it simple for occupiers to reach the right audience, at the right time, at the right price. To learn more, visit their website.

 

 

Download your copy of our FY 2021 GB Retail and Leisure Report - 'The road to retail recovery: are we there yet?' here.


Abigail Lowman, LDC Marketing Executive
Author

Abigail Lowman, LDC Marketing Executive The Local Data Company 901 901

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