Simon Champion, BOXPARK, p Carousel PR

In a world of food markets each touting their own originality, BOXPARK chief executive Simon Champion shared how BOXPARK Liverpool stands out. Credit: via Carousel PR

BOXPARK CEO: ‘If you are not special, you will not exist’

It is hard to miss the zebra-like BOXPARK Liverpool at Cains Brewery Village. The much-anticipated food market/entertainment venue hybrid officially opened its doors Friday, offering customers a chance to enjoy food from nine different traders, play a game of shuffleboard, and cheer on their favourite sports team – all in the same place.

The 15,000 sq ft BOXPARK Liverpool is BOXPARK’s first venture outside of London, where it already operates popular venues in Shoreditch, Croydon, and Wembley. Created in 2011, BOXPARK has made a name for itself through a mixture of good food, good drink, and good entertainment.

The company plans to sprinkle that same magic over Liverpool.

Place North West spoke with BOXPARK chief executive Simon Champion about the company’s approach to regeneration, what it looks for in a location, and why the Liverpool Baltic Station needs to happen already.

Comments have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Where do you see leisure, hospitality, and retail fitting into the regeneration picture for a city?

CHAMPION: I think it’s really important. You’ve seen, effectively, the decline of various industries, not least the retail industry. Everyone’s looking for the solution to the high streets.

We are very proud of our regeneration [impact], going into areas that perhaps are slightly more up-and-coming.

BOXPARK Liverpool will bring 150 direct jobs. Then, we do 600 events per site, per year. Therefore we will have many local musicians, local presenters, and local children’s entertainment companies coming in, helping us out, and things like that.

It’s not easy for the hospitality industry at this moment in time, because young people don’t have a lot of money and so they’re pretty picky in terms of where they go out and when they go out.

One of the important things about BOXPARK is that we really aim to have incredible food, but it’s also going to be affordable food to get people out. We’re a large site so we benefit from volume and our free traders will benefit from volume. So they’ve got to serve amazing food fast and they’ve also got to do so at affordable prices.

There’s a definite shift in focus in hospitality and retail to becoming more experiential. Would you agree with that?

100%. Plastered across everywhere in our office is “If you are not special, you will not exist”. That is in everything we do: our customers have to feel special, have to feel that they’ve had a special experience.

It goes back to our roots. Twelve years ago, our founder, Roger Wade, thought there would be a differential between people buying commodity stuff on the internet and people wanting something special or different. And so we actually started as a retail unit ourselves in Shoreditch and then put some food and beverage on the top. That’s where our roots of being a champion of independent food traders come from.

We always talk about being special because that’s what our traders are. Our food traders at BOXPARK Liverpool are incredibly special. You might know some of them: Rose Street Falafel is a new brand, but it’s a new brand from great North West trader Maray. Some of those traders, maybe like Puhkt, you might not have heard of. So you’ll come in, you’ll have special food and it will be affordable. Even if you don’t know what’s going on at BOXPARK Liverpool, there will always be something special on.

Simon Champion, BOXPARK, c Grant Walker via Carousel PR

Simon Champion described BOXPARK’s development ethos as ‘I shall leave this city not less but more beautiful than I found it’. Credit: Grant Walker via Carousel PR

We had an event last year with BOXPARK head of development Matthew McMillan and he spoke about BOXPARK and its role in placemaking. He stressed the importance of making BOXPARK Liverpool different from BOXPARK Shoreditch and the other BOXPARKS. How do you approach making Liverpool unique?

I mean, every site is different, because they are different sizes and different makeup. I think people come in and realise that it’s a BOXPARK. We’ve got nine food traders: so we got eight food traders inside and a barbecue outside. What’s great about our site here is that we have our lovely garden to go into and have fun.

But to be honest, what we really want, and what’s so important to BOXPARK Liverpool is we see it as owned by the people of Liverpool.

We don’t charge lots of money for entry. We want people to enjoy the local talent. So with 600 events a year, it’s always going to feel like a Liverpudlian experience at BOXPARK because the entertainers and the music are all going to be from Liverpool or around there.

Can you tease any new sites?

We look at all the major cities. We’ve looked at 300 different sites. This will be our first site outside London so we’re very, very picky. We actually looked at this site seven years ago and said no to it because it just didn’t quite have the momentum in the area.

We don’t like to be mainstream and go right in the middle of the centre. We’ve always talked about the fact that we wouldn’t be in the shopping centre because it would consume our brand. We want to be able to stand around and then have other people develop around us.

It’s been important in terms of Croydon. My teens actually study it in GCSE’s – BOXPARK Croydon. It’s slightly weird when they’re studying the regeneration impact of BOXPARK coming into town.

I can’t really tease about any big new sites. We’re always looking.

What does BOXPARK look for in a site?

It doesn’t necessarily need to be in an up-and-coming area. The ideal is near a train station. So we’re very hopeful that Baltic Triangle gets a train stop. All BOXPARKs tend to be right next to a train station because they are high-footfall locations.

What would really step it up for us is if the council approved the train station at the Baltic Triangle. We don’t want lots of people driving to us. Most of our customers come by train.

So train stations and high-footfall locations are important. The customer base can be very important as well. Liverpool is very much a BOXPARK city. If we put on the right act, we think people will come and have a lot of fun.

It’s also about knowing there are enough good food traders in a city. It’s not always easy to find. In Liverpool, we found an amazing set of traders that we’re really happy with. We actually hope they come to some of our London sites.

BOXPARK Liverpool finished , BOXPARK, c Grant Walker via Carousel PR

BOXPARK Liverpool opened to the public on 19 April. Credit: Grant Walker via Carousel PR

Delivery and takeaway have become more and more important for food operators. Were there any decisions made at BOXPARK Liverpool to accommodate delivery drivers?

We learn from every site. In some of our sites, you have food delivery drivers walking into the site. They take their helmets off, walk in, and take their deliveries directly from the food traders. At BOXPARK Liverpool, we designed a special delivery rider entrance so we will bring the food from the trader to the delivery rider entrance so they won’t have to come into the site. That is better ambience for the customer, but also more efficient for the customers ordering because it’s quicker.

The other thing that we’ve done is – and I think this is pretty big in terms of where the industry is at the moment – we’ve set up a point of sale system that as of next week there will be something on all the delivery apps called ‘The best of BOXPARK’. And you’ll be able to order Crazy Pedro’s, Madre Burrito, and Simply Salt and Pepper and they will all arrive with one delivery rider. You’ll pay one delivery charge and you can get a whole selection of food. That is extremely unusual in terms of the industry and I don’t know how many people do it in Liverpool already, but I can tell you that no one in London has managed to crack it.

We’ve worked incredibly hard in order to do that, so we’re excited about launching ‘The best of BOXPARK’ next week as well.

What needs to be done for BOXPARK Liverpool to be viewed as a success in your mind?

All we want is for the customers to have a wonderful time, to feel special, and to be excited to come to BOXPARK. We’re open 364 days a year. People talk a lot about our sports viewings, which are great, but that’s because they get huge TV coverage. But we’re big in music. We do the biggest pub quiz in London every week. Every Tuesday, there’ll be a quiz box part of Liverpool. So good customer feedback is essential.

The next thing is good, healthy, profitable food traders. They’re a great bunch. It’s great, the positive atmosphere coming to Liverpool. Everyone that has greeted us has been great. The council has been great, they’ve been so enthusiastic.

So you don’t have a target footfall number that you can give me by any chance.

No. We actually don’t give away our footfall numbers. Some of our sites have over a million people go through a year. We’re confident we’re going to get a lot of people through.

We’ve actually got a new system in BOXPARK Liverpool. We’re trialling a new system, which actually can identify not only the number of people that come in, but actually we can identify how long you stay for, which is pretty amazing. I could talk forever about all the little innovations we’re doing, but we will be able to work out exactly how long customers stay. One of the important things for us is how do we improve dwell time.

What is your favourite part about BOXPARK Liverpool?

I think my favourite thing about this Boxpark is the positivity and the people. It’s just a joy dealing with the food traders and a joy dealing with the staff. The staff are amazing, they’re just so positive.

BOXPARK Liverpool’s project team included BDP, Stace, Interiors UK, Event Electrical, Catering Projects, Morgan Electrical, FWP, Factory-Fit, BCLP, Quod, Nationwide Structures, and FSW.

Your Comments

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This will do extremely well in THe Baltic Triangle

By Anonymous

We are confident it will be a catalyst for more development in the Baltic.


Why are you charging people just to get into box park this venue is not for the working man in liverpool it sounds like you are more interested in people outside of liverpool baltic market does not charge you to go in for entertainment food and drink
only time will tell if box park works in our
Great city wish you the best of luck 🤞

By Colin

I can’t wait to visit boxpark Liverpool.

By Mark

There are so many different versions of this in Manchester we don’t actually need it here. I went to the one in Wembley last Summer. Not worth the hype. Plus, “looked at all major cities and over 300 sites”. I doubt it.

By Andrew

BoxPark is a quality addition to Liverpool’s leisure, also Rough Trade offering retail and live music has arrived too, and both praised the City Council for their help from Planning. I wonder what happened with Itsu then, a respected casual food offering , who have pulled out of their plan to open at 11 Paradise St, because the Council refused their plan to have an outside awning! This is Liverpool Council at it’s worst, as the planning app ref 23A/1994 refusal was because the awning was “incongruous with the outside street scene”, yet the outside street scene is temporary stalls selling footy scarves and other tat, a really poor decision.

By Anonymous

I am glad it’s in Liverpool, so much more friendlier and welcoming.

By Just saying!

@Andrew Liverpool has so many venues like this also they all still work ????? So Boxpark would not work in Manchester then interesting !!!!! But it works in Liverpool & London.

By Anonymous

Welcome to the parish. Apart from its brand presence, what Boxpark gives Liverpool is greater ‘density’ when it comes to visitor attractions. The more there is to see and do, the longer people stay, and the more frequently they’ll return. Outcome: jobs and regeneration.
Next up: a major aquarium, a waterfront resort casino and a cable car up the hill from the Albert Dock, via Chinatown, to the Anglican cathedral.

By More Anonymous than the others

We need the Baltic train station to start building now. Why this isn’t moving quicker, I don’t know 🙄

By Anonymous

The station was needed years ago… Unbelievable that it hasn’t been built yet. The mayor chose to prioritise a second station for Kirkby instead.

By Transport fan

Perhaps they should have put it in the Fabric District, Liverpool – couldn’t get much closer to Lime St Station.

By Bob Dawson

Went to Boxpark this weekend, they`ve done a great job all round and from Parliament St it looks so much better, while inside is top quality, meanwhile checked out the original Baltic Food Market and that was pretty much full too, and even though the weather wasn`t great there was plenty of people around. The importance of the proposed Baltic Station here can`t be over estimated as it will benefit not just the growing local population but the high volume of visitors to the area, in addition the presence of a station normally encourages more development, so bring it on.

By Anonymous

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