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Duo behind Aberdeen’s first ‘box market’ STAXX say project is ‘more important than ever’ with John Lewis closure

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The duo bringing Aberdeen’s first creative social market to the city have spoken out following the news that John Lewis will close its doors in the north-east, and how the community will play a vital part in their forthcoming project.

Michael Robertson and David Griffiths who revealed plans for Aberdeen’s very own “box market”, which is scheduled to open summer 2022, are urging the community to get behind the project in light of the recent blows to Aberdeen’s retail scene.

With the announcement of John Lewis’s impending closure yesterday, the duo believe it is “more important than ever” to get the public behind their vision for STAXX and supporting local businesses.

The entrepreneurs are in regular dialogue with Aberdeen City Council regarding planning applications on three site options currently and are in negotiations with land owners. All locations are city-centre-based.

Michael Robertson and David Griffiths in Aberdeen.

With the local high street already a growing concern before the pandemic, Michael and David are determined to help rebuild the offering on Union Street with their business nourishment development plan.

STAXX, which will house 30 to 40 different firms, will act as an incubator for businesses to have an affordable city-centre presence where they can build a customer base, generate income, and eventually invest into a bigger premises in the city centre and further afield.

Boasting one to three-year leases, this concept would see some businesses grow out of STAXX within a matter of years, leaving room for new entrepreneurs to build their enterprises at the venue itself.

The STAXX development will be over three floors and will focus on food, drink and retail with short-term units and longer-term (up to three years) units available. It will be built from repurposed shipping containers and will be a retail marketplace by day and a social hub by night, with a vast array of local street food vendors and Aberdeen’s first rooftop terrace bar.

New renders of  what STAXX will look like.

Devastating loss

Michael said: “After seeing the devastating news regarding the closures of not just John Lewis, but also other large department stores such as Debenhams, the public reaction really helped reaffirm why STAXX is going to be such a vital solution in the fight to regenerate and save our city centre.

“Since going public with our plans back in October we have been working tirelessly every day to refine our business plan, develop the design and meet with key advisors and industry experts such as Aberdeen City Council, architects, funding specialists, investors, potential traders and most importantly – the local community.

“We have heads of terms formalised on our preferred location with a written agreement in place with full design and planning at an advanced stage. This location is centrally located and will allow for around 30 to 40 units which will provide a mix of retail, street food, bar and daily/weekly lease ‘pop-up’ units.

“As well as this, we have also secured a secondary site and a third back-up site to ensure that we have ample options. All sites are centrally located and while our preferred is in advanced stages, all three would make for an incredible location to bring STAXX to fruition for our city.”

Rebuilding the high street

With hundreds of registered vendors on the books after submitting their interest in the social market and the units within it, Michael and David are certain there is an appetite for a venue like this where shoppers will be able to enjoy and purchase a range of local fare.

David added: “We currently have a list of over 300 registered vendors interested in taking a unit within the development which has been an incredible response. We encourage more businesses to register interest via our website as there will be plenty of opportunities with daily/weekly leased units also up for grabs – these will ensure that no matter which week you come to STAXX, there will always be something new and exciting on offer.

“We’ve begun the process of consulting businesses and presenting our vendor brochure to ensure that our operational and pricing plans are indeed affordable and attractive for small to medium local independent businesses. The feedback so far has been unanimously positive. We ask our community to be patient with us and trust that there hasn’t been a day in the last year we haven’t worked on this – great things take time.

David Griffiths and Michael Robertson in Aberdeen city centre.

“STAXX is a community-focused project, we are not money men or corporate dogs fixated on pound signs – we’re simply two local guys sick of seeing our city suffer and believe we possess the skills between us to lead the charge for a new way of shopping, socialising and incubating grass roots business within the city we love.”

Community involvement

Exploring options on how the community can get involved with the project, the duo hinted that a crowdfunding and equity share process may be on the horizon, giving those living locally, and further afield, the opportunity to get involved in this new addition set to hit the city next year.

David added: “Getting the community involved is vital to us. We’d love to enable the community to be able to own a part of the development and be involved in how it is run. We’re currently exploring various options with an equity share scheme a possibility.

“We would much prefer this rather than large private investment, as the most crucial aspect of STAXX is keeping it in control of the people most passionate about it – the community. We remain open to private investment, but only if the STAXX ethos isn’t compromised as part of any such offer. While nothing is set in stone yet, we encourage anyone interested in potentially supporting our mission to regenerate our city to get in touch.”

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