The Airbnb Of Pop-Up Space, Storefront, Believes The Trend Is Here To Stay

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UK Director at Storefront, Matthew Greenwell, talks about the future of short-term retail space & the opportunities this model holds for startups:

What is your role at Storefront and how did you get involved?

My role at Storefront is Director. I head up our UK operations. After a short career in finance at Goldman Sachs, I co-founded Oui Open which later merged to become Storefront.

Storefront is being called the “Airbnb of Pop-Up Space” – how would you describe it yourself?

We are similar to Airbnb. However, we are not just an online platform to find and book short-term space. We provide a tailored service to every client offering help, advice and guidance to find the perfect space for them.

How would you define what a “pop-up” is and what is the biggest trend you are seeing right now?

One key point I want to highlight – when people hear the term “pop-up”, they generally associate them with super short term durations such as 1 week. However, our fastest growing customer segment are pop-ups for durations of 6-18 months.

Storefront now has over 10,000 spaces around the world’s greatest shopping cities of which over half are in the US. We are seeing a big increase in medium to large size brands and retailers, opting to set up 3 pop-ups around the world inside of the timeline of a year, instead of setting up permanent stores.

How did you discover the need for pop-up retail space? What problem are you solving?

I was walking around London two years ago and noticed just how many vacant properties there were on every high street. After investigating the issue and speaking with some friends that worked in commercial property, it was clear there was a bottleneck in the market.

On the commercial landlord side, there are high vacancy rates across many international cities due to difficulties to find and vet potential renters. There are difficulties to bring visibility to a vacant space and these under-utilised assets mean loss of revenue opportunities for landlords.

On the retailer/brand side, there is no easy way to find and book space that matches a brand’s requirements. High rental requirements across lots of international cities eg. NY, mean it is also very risky for retailers and brands to commit to long-term leasing agreements.

Additionally, the contracting and insurance process for long-term leases is very long winded. Sometimes leasing documents can be hundreds of pages long and take months to finalise. Through our platform and short-term licensing agreements, we can process a pop-up shop bookings under 7 days.

Storefront is already working with leading brands like Etsy, Samsung, Adidas & L’Oréal. How did you convince these players?

The flexibility and huge benefits short-term retail brings are the same for all parties in market (startups, SMEs, blue chip brands), so they were very easy to convince. Startups love pop-ups as it allows them to use them as a stepping stone into the market. SMEs use them as a business expantion tool to test new markets, while large brands use them for PR and brand activation events.

The Airbnb Of Pop-Up Space, Storefront, Believes The Trend Is Here To Stay

Pop-up space in Amterdam, Netherlands

After covering NYC, Paris & Amsterdam you just recently opened retail space in London. What’s to expect?

Something that I am personally very excited about is the new opportunity we hope to provide brands and businesses all over the world. Our website will soon be accessible in English, French and Mandarin. Other cities such as Tokyo and Mumbai and their local languages will be on-boarded by Spring 17.

Now for the first time, brands and businesses (big and small) can browse short-term commercial spaces all over the world giving them the option as to where they might launch their business ideas, rather than being tied to their local city.

We are already seeing traction from startups based in Hong Kong requesting space in central London and other similar examples in France. We hope we can facilitate more of this type of free movement and help encourage the launch of more ideas worldwide.

What were the biggest challenges you faced building Storefront?

One of the biggest challenges was convincing landlords about the relevance and need for pop-ups in the market and that it keeps their space interesting and can earn them higher revenues. Now some of our landlords even offer discounts on rent if they like the retailer or brand eg. if it is a high profile brand and is an idea they resonant with.

What was your most memorable moment so far?

The most memorable moment so far has been helping Kodak find a suitable pop-up space to launch their new camera phone this Christmas. Kodak is an iconic brand that I remember growing up. Now we are helping them connect with their customers in new ways through our pop-up spaces.

7 years from now: How did your startup change the world?

We believe on every high street 20% of the shops will be short-term retail. With this high-streets and cities around the world more diverse and interesting, as more brands and businesses were able to launch their ideas and make them travel.

What advice would you give fellow founders for their startup?

Become truely obsessed with your idea. You have to roll it around in your head over and over and over to ensure all the cracks in the model are covered. You have to be willing to work 100 hours weeks and sacrifice social life. If you are not willing to do that, someone else will, and they will catch you up and win long term.




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