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How to fake the Christmas shopping

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[THIS WEEK] Sophisticated fake shopfronts enter the festive spirit, writes James Pallister

The Tyneside firm Shopjacket has had a fruitful year, winning a large contract from Armagh City Council to improve 15 buildings and sites in a joint venture with contractor JPM, and several lines of enquiry from councils with European Regional Development Fund to spend.

Along with the grisly private equity-speak ‘Built-to-Flip’ phrase, the firm’s eponymous neologism Shopjacket even made the Cambridge English Dictionary in December 2011: ‘A fake front to a shop that is designed to give the impression that a vacant unit is functioning.’

Bad business for high streets is good business for this firm. Its countercyclical offer gives councils and business groups a chance to spruce up un-let units on high streets with photorealistic renderings of businesses that could – but for some plucky entrepreneur (and presumably, customers) – enliven the high street and help arrest that menace of shopping areas: a negative feedback loop of low footfall and business closures.

Not satisfied with helping the Whitley Bay Chamber of Commerce visualise a delicatessen for one of the street’s empty plots (AJ10.11.11) Paul Murphy and Jo Atkinson’s firm has diversified, launching a Christmas window shopfront, aimed at shop owners, shopping centres and local authorities throughout the country.

The rendering is of a Christmas scene, complete with Father Christmas, Elves, stockings and presents. The scene is designed to be backlit, giving it an attractive, inviting glow. One is currently being modelled by the former Co-op in Whitley Bay, and in a piece of splendid seasonal simulacra, was part of the town’s Christmas lights switch-on ceremony in November.

While the unpredictable nature of shops going bust in the festive period means that Shopjacket has a just-in-time delivery procedure, the company already has orders for two for Durham and Edinburgh, and one for Workington.

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