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Sook’s first regular customer is organic fare supplier unpckd




Tracey Banks of online retailer unpckd is a Friday regular at the Sook space on Norfolk Street. Picture: Keith Heppell
Tracey Banks of online retailer unpckd is a Friday regular at the Sook space on Norfolk Street. Picture: Keith Heppell

New-era retailer Sook has its first regular pop-up retail customer at the premises – unpckd, a start-up promoting sustainable and environmentally friendly shopping.

unpckd offers waste-free alternatives to conventional food and cleaning products. Customers order their goods online, and then drop in at Sook's Norfolk Street retail site on Fridays between 10am and 4pm to collect their order.

“I started experimenting with the idea in July last year,” founder Tracey Banks told the Cambridge Independent. “It began with a small selection of retail products and a friendly customer base, looking at the logistics.

“In November I formulated the company, and started trading from my house in Hitchin in February. The click-and-collect model is going well there, and we do a fortnightly delivery, which seems to be the right cadence for delivery and refill orders. Customers order online, and I do the deliveries.”

The Friday Cambridge model started last month, while the startup is currently on the Cambridge Social Ventures programme at Cambridge Judge Business School.

“This is our second week,” Tracey said on Friday. “Passers-by can come in and browse, and online customers can place their order up until Thursday for collection in Norfolk Street on Friday.”

Local suppliers including BeeBee Wraps are among the suppliers for the service, which Tracey started “as a full-time working mum”.

Sook founder John Hoyle met Tracey in Cambridge, “as part of Cambridge Social Ventures with the Cambridge Judge Business School Accelerator.

“The business model is perfectly embedded in the local community,” John says of unpckd.

Jack Folland from Sook is seen centre with the Dept of Trade delegation visiting the new retail site on Norfolk Street, which is bookable by the hour. Picture: Keith Heppell
Jack Folland from Sook is seen centre with the Dept of Trade delegation visiting the new retail site on Norfolk Street, which is bookable by the hour. Picture: Keith Heppell

Sook’s rent-by-the-hour business model for Sook is also making progress. As well as the Norfolk Street site, the model – which cuts overheads including rent, staff wages, electricity and heating bills – has “piqued the interest of the retail community”.

“We just won the inaugural Transport for London – TfL – retail innovation competition,” says John, who has just taken on Jack Folland as business development manager. “We’re in demand which is amazing, and are progressing our tenant arrangements.

“We’re looking at spaces in South Moulton Street and Liverpool Street. Basically we can’t keep up with demand, so we’re opening one every four months in a sequence.”

The TfL exposure has done Sook’s adaptive retail model no harm at all: the prize is the opportunity to launch its concept in London. TfL is providing the company with free retail space on its estate for 12 months as part of the prize.

“We also have our first bit of grey hair on board,” John continues. John Bullough was head of retail at Grosvenor, and was also responsible for development at Grand Arcade and The Grafton.

In addition, Sook has also received its first investment – £100,000 from seven private investors and angels.

This week, Sook was visited by Jose Richart, an export business development advisor at the Department for International Trade for the East of England.

Sook is a Cambridge-based retail model which is rentable by the hour
Sook is a Cambridge-based retail model which is rentable by the hour

“It was a fantastic opportunity to showcase Sook to a number of colleagues and delegates associated with the Department for Trade,” says Jack of the occasion. “The support from Jose, in particular, has been very helpful to Sook’s development and we are excited for the many opportunities which can stem from this relationship.

“The ability for a foreign firm to sell directly into physical space in the UK, without ever having to visit the shop, is something we are offering at Sook and we think this is a key area for growth, especially in a post-Brexit landscape.”

Details of the new arrangements at the CB2 cafe site will be made public soon.



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