A TYNESIDE firm which helps transform the appearance of empty shops is set to make its mark in Hollywood.
Shopjacket, which was set up less than two years ago by property consultant Paul Murphy and designer Jo Atkinson, is aiming to gain a foothold in the US market with its bespoke printed panels, which make empty buildings appear to be thriving shops.
But Murphy, who has just completed the eighth Shopjacket in Dutch capital Amsterdam and is in negotiations with potential clients in Sweden and Germany, says the concept is about more than simply masking the problem.
“We’ve had interest from the West Coast of America – Hollywood Boulevard. The American side was hard until they’d seen them,” he said.
“It was always going to be difficult in America so I thought, why not look at companies that have franchises? So why not a Shopjacket for that – it’s a supplementary message: there is a franchise available here. That might just be the ‘in’.”
The company is already using Shopjacket as an educational tool and it’s working with landlords, tenants, local authorities and schools to improve retailers’ chances of staying in business and to attract new shops to areas in need of regeneration.
Murphy, who is a chartered surveyor, said: “If local shops are going to survive at local level, we’ve got to do it differently.
“In Germany, you do a three-year qualification and you have to join the chamber of trade. In England, you can just set up.”
He also warned that there could be more-high profile retail failures on the horizon after a difficult festive period on the high street.
Murphy is concerned that some businesses may succumb to the pressure at the next quarterly rent payment day later this month.
“Game have gone and there are two of three more at risk of not having the rent,” he said.
Shopjacket is also talking to retailers in Germany, Sweden and Russia on the back of a successful conference at the Marriott Hotel in Newcastle last month.
Closer to home, he is also talking to the Metrocentre and Eldon Square about the potential for Shopjackets in some of their older malls.
And, rather than sending the designs overseas for manufacture, he has found a Low Fell company capable of producing the shop frontages.