Waterfront pop-up artists’ village set to return

22 July 2015

Wellington’s waterfront pop-up village will be back next summer after being dubbed a “typically cool Wellington concept” by visitors.

Crowd in pop-up village.

Pop-up artists' village

Emerging artists and designers transformed 12 shipping containers into tiny shops and designer studios last summer on Taranaki Street Wharf. The 12-week venture added over $250,000 to the Wellington economy, according to an independent Angus & Associates economic impact evaluation report.

Tenants and products included jewellers, artists, a quilter, children’s fashion designer, interior designer, essential oils, women’s clothing and body products.

In what has been called a “terrific idea” by out-of-towners, the initiative is the brainchild of Wendy Jasper and Helena Tobin, the team behind the Underground Market. “The Pop-up Village is a business incubator for emerging creative businesses and a stepping stone for them to go on to bigger things,” says Wendy.

The planned return of the village has been welcomed by Wellington’s acting Mayor, Justin Lester and City Councillor Jo Coughlan, Chair of the Council’s Economic Growth and Arts Committee. Cr Lester says the village is a simple and very cost-effective way to get exposure for business start-ups – especially during the busy summer cruise-ship season.

Cr Coughlan adds: “This initiative ticks all the boxes – it adds even more colour to a lively waterfront, it’s good for tourism and the local economy – and it’s a great way for creative businesses to get going.”

The report states that the initiative helps Wellington’s small business community and creative growth by:

  • building businesses with a view to full-time retail and export operations
  • creating networking opportunities for operators to interact with each other – providing a collegial, supportive community.

According to the report, there are various reasons for artists wanting to participate in the project:

  • ”The opportunity as a new business to test a concept, to test having a retail space seven days a week and getting direct feedback from customers and passers-by.”
  • “The key motivation of getting a pop-up shop was to trial a permanent retail store, and for this purpose it worked really well. The level of foot traffic was generally very good and the location near Te Papa was perfect.”

There was also another, less obvious role for the village. “The shop operators were surprised to find they became 'ambassadors' for Wellington, helping direct tourists who were looking for assistance and advice” says Wendy. “It gives tourists a peek inside our Creative Capital, and a chance to meet those who make it tick.

“It’s a refreshing change from High Street shopping too,” adds Helena. “There’s something magic about being able to purchase souvenirs made by genuine Wellingtonians.”

Reflecting on the experience, operators said:

  • “I now have three months of market research and sales stats that will help my financial forecasting and business planning as I develop my business.”
  • “I had the opportunity to reach a broad audience from all walks of life, including international visitors.”
  • “Many visitors to NZ thought it was a terrific idea and were thrilled to find us there. Wellingtonians also really enjoyed the environment, many locals mentioning that it was a great place to bring their visitors to.”

The report concluded that the venture has economic impact and social benefit to the region, helps to develop artisan businesses as well as contributing to Wellington's creative culture for both locals and visitors.

The organisers are already gathering a list of potential new creatives for the 2016 village. “There are so many promising new creative businesses in our region, and this is such an innovative way to introduce them to the market,” says Wendy.

The next market will open January through to mid-March, and applications will soon be called by the market operators on their website and Facebook page: