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Sook launches co-retail model in The Grafton



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Sook has initiated a co-retail model for its retail site at The Grafton.

Kirsty Roberts, Sook sales director, with an interactive display in The Grafton for an exhibition called ‘Microsculpture’ by Levon Biss. Picture: Keith Heppell
Kirsty Roberts, Sook sales director, with an interactive display in The Grafton for an exhibition called ‘Microsculpture’ by Levon Biss. Picture: Keith Heppell

The concept offers diverse businesses the opportunity to hire a regular slot in the shopping centre, thereby significantly reducing its commitment to rent and other running expenses.

“Co-retail is like co-working,” explains Kirsty Roberts, Sook’s sales director. “It involves sharing the space and sharing the costs of the space across the week.

“It’s a collaborative project which brings people together, allowing businesses to work together and create a collective of businesses to share the space – not at the same time, but over the course of a week.”

Sook is looking to have a collective in place for The Grafton premises in time for reopening on June 24. The option is open to national brands – who might want to scale down their retail exposure – as well as local businesses.

The co-retail proposition is being applied to Sook premises in Cambridge and Edinburgh as the hire-by-the-hour company’s model gains traction in a UK retail environment altered by the pandemic and the digital shopping experience.

“The pandemic has accelerated the decline of the High Street and people are looking for a new model,” Kirsty, who joined from Cambridge’s Audi franchise last year, suggests. “What we’re saying is that what is needed is not a new model but a new way to approach a commercial lease.

“The risks of taking on a lease are too high so we want to situate ourselves in the middle – between the traditional retail model and the pop-up model. Co-retail is a way for small companies to dip into retail.”

Any sort of business is invited to contact Kirsty to discuss a possible collaboration which lowers the barriers to entry for access to a city centre portal.

John Hoyle, Sook CEO and founder, in The Grafton premises. Picture: Keith Heppell
John Hoyle, Sook CEO and founder, in The Grafton premises. Picture: Keith Heppell

“We’ve had exhibitors, yoga classes, baby clothes, a cocktail bar, food retailers and network-based events and incubators for promotions – such as Enterprise Nations ‘Hello, World’ network.

“Co-retail is a new approach and I want to put an open call out to businesses in Cambridge – to anyone who has thought about or who wants to have a commercial lease, or perhaps they’ve lost their premises due to Covid – to get involved.

“Send us an enquiry, we’ll put all the ideas together in the mix, and curate this collection of businesses in one space. If there’s too many businesses we’ll go an open another space.

“Anyone can get involved now, and we hope to have a full cohort of businesses by the end of June.”

Simon Gallagher, Sook’s chief operating officer, described the development as “an open call-out for any business that has ever considered, tried or thought about taking a commercial lease but discounted it because of the cost and commitment”.

He added: “This is an opportunity for any type of business be it activity-based, products, services – among others – to have their own space in a cost- and time-efficient way.”



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