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Sook brings a new retailer each day of the week to The Grafton in Cambridge




Sook at The Grafton’s new initiative will see a different retailer at the premises every day of the week for the next three months.

From left are Dan Burnham - Sook, Katie Shelton - Scrummy Tummies, Samuel Douglas - Be Social Cambridge, Anna Flaumane - Selwyn Gotha, Gerald Carew - InterSTEM Recruiter, Victoria Jenkins - Unhidden and Kirsty Roberts - Sook. Picture: Richard Marsham
From left are Dan Burnham - Sook, Katie Shelton - Scrummy Tummies, Samuel Douglas - Be Social Cambridge, Anna Flaumane - Selwyn Gotha, Gerald Carew - InterSTEM Recruiter, Victoria Jenkins - Unhidden and Kirsty Roberts - Sook. Picture: Richard Marsham

In a unique trial, Sook has made the space available without charging rent as it plans to use the data to determine shopping patterns to improve

its service.

Sook was founded in Cambridge in 2019 to make use of retail properties by running them for the benefit of the local community and charging by the hour for the use of the space. It has since expanded across England and into Scotland, with the sites being used for art exhibitions, pop-up retailing, concerts, meetings, birthdays, talks and other events.

Sook sales manager Kirsty Roberts said: “All the business owners have a three-month trial for free; it’s a data research project for us, so they’ll be transparent about their sales data, and we also receive footwear data –including age and gender – using AI technology via a camera pointed at people’s shoes as they walk in.

“That data gives you a dashboard at the end of the month – it’s not 100 per cent accurate but it is a really interesting and useful exercise.

“These analytics are important. For instance, in our Oxford Street site a camera detects people’s motion so you can tell their reactions [to products and displays].”

Kirtsy Roberts, Sook sales manager. Picture: Richard Marsham
Kirtsy Roberts, Sook sales manager. Picture: Richard Marsham

The seven retailers participating at the scheme now running at The Grafton are:

Monday: Gotha Gardens is based at Pembroke Farm in Ashwell, a country house garden with wildlife walks, a cafe and a gift shop;

Tuesday: Solar Woodle, a Dutch company producing an innovative and smart LED light for garden lighting, path lighting, parking etc;

Wednesday: Be Social Cambridge – the Cambridge directory for independent businesses, shops, traders and freelancers;

Thursday: InterSTEM Recruitment is a local independent recruitment agency that specialises in placing technical and commercial staff

Friday: Scrummy Tummies is all about baby-led weaning;

Saturday: Modest Trends is an ethically-sourced women’s fashionwear brand; and

Sunday: Unhidden, an adaptive clothing brand for people with disabilities.

Victoria Jenkins, founder and CEO of Unhidden, is delighted to be involved in the pilot.

“At the moment we are a made-to-order adaptive fashion brand for people with disabilities with a small production run arriving in September,” Victoria says, “so we have the range of five men’s and five women’s pieces for customers to look at and place orders that would be shipped within one to two months. This is for two reasons – we are an ethical brand so we do not want to overproduce and therefore contribute excess waste; we are also customisable so our customers can request changes or different fastenings that are not possible with a ready to wear model.

“I will be at The Grafton every Sunday for three months and will be hosting some events as well as bringing other brands in with me – this coming Sunday I’ll have Blanksn Jewellery and SweatDreamz By MKB, a pyjama brand.

“In the first first weekend of September I will be sharing the space with Not a Phase, a trans charity. I will also be working with models of diversity on an event and hopefully Parapride in October.”

Unhidden is also a regular at Sook’s Oxford Street, London space.

“I am nervous but excited and proud to be part of this hub – we are the first adaptive brand in the UK to have retail space in two locations,” she says.

From left are Anna Flaumane - Selwyn Gotha, Gerald Carew - InterSTEM Recruiter, Victoria Jenkins - Unhidden, Samuel Douglas - Be Social Cambridge and Katie Shelton - Scrummy Tummies. Picture: Richard Marsham
From left are Anna Flaumane - Selwyn Gotha, Gerald Carew - InterSTEM Recruiter, Victoria Jenkins - Unhidden, Samuel Douglas - Be Social Cambridge and Katie Shelton - Scrummy Tummies. Picture: Richard Marsham

Kirsty adds: “Each occupier gets an induction so they have their own key, to get into the shop, and the shop is set up for them from 10am to 5pm. They’ve all found their feet in the first week.

“It’s a three-month trial, then a review of the co-retail model to see how it went, can see if and when sales improved, so if you can prove you can save money and time, and sales improve over time by having premises one day a week, that will change the face of retail.”

Sook founder John Hoyle said: “Co-Retail is a business model we have been excited about for some time now. Launching this trial in one of our very first spaces, in our origin roots of Cambridge, is an incredible opportunity for the brands involved and for us to see just how much of an impact our business can have on the future of physical retail.”

Details here.



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