Although from the outside looking in they can look like an empty shell, shipping containers are being transformed into some of the most charismatic and thriving hotspots by independent traders across the UK.

Business owners are getting their hands on storage containers for an absolute steal of just £1,100*, and they’re proving to be the perfect little homes for businesses, as well as creating some of the most innovative and exciting shops, bars, venues, restaurants and offices around.

Providing an ideal stepping-stone for up and coming business owners, storage containers can help establish a brand before moving to a permanent location. Renting the land or container is normally around £20,000 per year, giving owners spare cash to upgrade their space. The portability of a container also means it can be moved across the country, giving entrepreneurs the opportunity to tap into different markets and audiences.

To shine a spotlight on the potential of an empty shipping container and to show the innovative and exciting work new business owners are doing across the UK, modular building expert Elliott has picked their top 5 UK retail villages and pop-up shopping centres to explore further.

Utilising cabins, shipping containers and modular buildings to their full potential, Elliott has been commissioned by companies like McDonald’s and Tesco to design and manufacture both temporary and permanent building solutions. They have provided customers with shopping and hospitality experiences and fully endorse the unique and versatile nature of a building. Elliott’s go-to storage container villages are:

Box Park – Shoreditch

The Top % Shipping Container Shopping Villages In The UK

The first food and retail park made of refurbed containers, Box Park Shoreditch set the bar high when it opened in 2011, and eventually resulted in sites in Croydon and Wembley too. Seen as the heart of Shoreditch’s quirky community, Box Park plays host to global street food cuisines such as Rudi’s Jerk Shack, Salad Mafia and Small Batch Coffee, 4 different bars and BEATBOX, a container that hosts over 500 events per year. Shops include The Camden Watch Company, Happy Socks, Get A Drip and you can even get your hair cut at Barbersmiths.

Stack – Newcastle

The Top % Shipping Container Shopping Villages In The UK

Receiving an average score of 4.5 stars on Trip Advisor, Stack opened in 2018 and is made of more than 50 shipping containers. The social hub is dog friendly and open from Monday – Sunday 11am-midnight. Customers can grab a bite at Boojie Burger, Stix and Sushi Me Rollin’ amongst others, or they can grab a drink at the Heineken Bar. For those not drinking alcohol, there’s Coffee Yolo and Manhua Cha’s bubble tea, and you can even find your zen at Yoga Therapies. Stack also has Time Freezer Photography Gallery and several shops including a jeweller, plant shop and fragrance shop. Hurry though, the site is scheduled to close in 2021 for redevelopment.

Hatch – Manchester

The Top % Shipping Container Shopping Villages In The UK

Located on Oxford Road in the centre of Manchester, award-winning Hatch has more than 30 independent traders, as well as an outdoor courtyard and rooftop terraces. Open 7 days a week, you can have a drink at one of the many bars including Clubhouse, vin-yard and Electrik Box, or grab a bite to eat at one of the eateries. A great place for veggies and vegans, Herbivorous and The Veggie Deli come highly recommended, or there’s Grandad’s Sausages for the meat lovers. You can also learn to mix at DJ Gym or have a tattoo designed at Gold Panther Tattoo.

Spark – York

The Top % Shipping Container Shopping Villages In The UK

Adding to York’s growing choice of eccentric places to visit, Spark is a vibrant mix of art, community theatres, food, drink and more. Consisting of 23 upcycled containers over 2 levels, Spark is part of The Council of York’s project to revitalised those forgotten areas of the city. Now it hosts shared workspaces, a performance area and some incredible food and drink kiosks such as Doner Summer, Bohemian Bar and Clucking Oinks. If you fancy ordering their food to your home, check out Spark Go to see who delivers.

Cargo – Bristol

The Top % Shipping Container Shopping Villages In The UK

Made up of two parts, Cargo 1 arrived in October 2016 and Cargo 2 followed in 2017. Built-in Wapping Wharf, it’s renowned for its food and drink. In fact, food writer Xanthe Clay (The Telegraph) once described Cargo as “an example of inner-city restaurant development done right”. Favourites include The Bristol Cheesemonger, Salt & Malt and The Pickled Brisket. Cargo is now seen as one of the go-to places to visit in Bristol, it completely revitalised the area and has attracted entrepreneurs from all over the world to set up their new businesses there.

Elliott’s Strategic Sales and Marketing Director, Trace Norton, says, “It’s a joy to see so many towns and cities thriving from something as simple as a storage container. Their versatility really is inspiring, and we would recommend that anyone close to our top 5 should go and visit and see the excitement for themselves.”

For more information, images and interview opportunities, please contact Will Waldron on or Becky Gaskell

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