Take a stroll down just about any high street in the UK and you’ll notice a marked different façade. From sweet shops that used to play home to major retailers to flat-out boarded-up properties, the face of brick-and-mortar retailers has undergone a transformation over the past few years.
The Demise of the High Street
Without needing to mention that forced upon us experience we all ushered into and endured but were given no real clear exit strategy, we’ve all become acutely aware of what it means to work from home, and just how speedy the e-commerce sector really can be with bringing just about anything under the rainbow.
But at what cost? I’ll be the first to admit that my hand would remain in my lap when asked who’d recently made a significant (I realise significant can have varying meanings from person to person) purchase from a high street retailer in the six months leading up to the aforementioned forced closures, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t frequent a number of these locations, say nothing for the bolstering of a sense of community spirit and pride. Thankfully, my favourite camera shop in Chiswick has weathered the storm, and I still regularly check in with Andy to get the lowdown on gear that a product sheet just won’t and can’t offer.
While Freddie Fforde and Co.’s Patch isn’t seeking to bring back the 17,000 some UK high street shops that have shuttered their doors over the past five years, what they are seeking to do is breathe a new life into these once centres of commerce, and hopefully reinstill that sense of pride along the way.
Armed with a fresh £3 million provided by JamJar Investments - the fund launched by the founders of Innocent Smoothies, Blue Wire Capital, Vectr7 Investment Partners, Soho House backers Active Partners, Triple Point Ventures, and host of angel investors including Peter Roberts, founder of PureGym, Emma Woods, former CEO of Wagamama, Jeremy Sanders, co-founder of Coco di Mama and Wendy Becker, former CEO of Jack Wills, the CEO of Entrepreneur First, Matt Clifford; Episode 1 founder, Simon Murdoch; Sequoia’s Talent Director for Europe, Zoe Jervier Hewitt; and founder of Fluidly and CEO of Gravita UK, Caroline Plumb OBE, Patch is transforming empty or downtrodden local buildings and converting them into, dare I say it, because the plan is to be so much more than, co-working spaces.
Working Near Home
According to the startup, anyone and everyone are welcome at these rehabilitated structures, although freelancers and SMEs might be most familiar with the concept.
Alongside everything you’d come to expect in a co-working space, Patch’s angle is to open the space to much more than “just” work, but rather a “neighbourhood space” where community residents can use these hubs to host local cultural events and creative initiatives, including podcast recording studio(s), networking events, pottery workshops, and maker’s markets. You need a space, Patch can provide it.
Up and running
The £3 million poured into Patch isn’t just coming off a lofty dream, as the organisation already has a space in operation in the London suburb of Chelmsford, Essex, with work well underway at a second location to be opened later this year in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, and Twickenham, technically within Greater London, but if you’ve ever made the trip out there, a world away from Bond Street to say the least.
The Twickenham location will be launched in partnership with the BIG South London programme; a South London-wide drive to open up economic growth in the area. The space will include a 2,000 sq ft public access space on the ground floor and house a locally-run cafe, pop-up retail space, and public library.
"High streets around the country have suffered repeated challenges. It is the hard work of local people, particularly the energy of councilors and residents, which forms the platform for pre-existing communities that Patch wants to serve,” explained Patch founder Freddie Fforde. “We believe that UK Plc is fundamentally missing out on the potential of its greatest assets: its people. Through our partnership with BIG South London in Twickenham, and with the potential for Levelling Up initiatives such as the Shared Prosperity Fund and Towns Fund in future locations, we can act as a gateway to unlock opportunity and growth on every UK high street."