WeArePopUp - Startacus interviews the pop up shop platform
by Startacus Admin Published on: 14th January 2013
Startacus has a keen interest in the Pop-up shop phenomenon. From Mary Portas’ high street review to Startup Britain’s Pop-up shop push, the Pop-up shop trader, symbolises many of the characteristics of us ‘self starters’. With Pop-Up shops being symbolic of many young artists, designers and projects using disused retail space to sell their wares, there is also a certain connotation that this whole fad in some way represents the recession, the slow death of the more commercial high street and the return to a more creative and independent marketplace.
We recently heard about WeArePopUp, a Platform and App that helps businesses find short-term commercial space for retail, art, design, dining, community and specialty projects around London. Thinking that no one really designs a platform and App to just to cater for a short term fad, we wanted to find out a little more about WeArePopUp, about their business itself, the wider Pop-Up industry, and where they feel the Pop-Up market will be going over the coming years....
Over to the interview:
The WeArePopUp platform and the Pop Spot App are your first platforms as Ephemeral Labs Limited. How did Ephemeral Labs come about and where did you get the inspiration for WeArePopUp?
We started by attempting to solve a simple problem. Despite a burgeoning community of tech companies developing tools for local discovery, pop-ups are hard to find.
Over the summer, we built and launched the We Are Pop Up app. Through that process, we became part of London’s pop-up community, and saw that the lack of easily accessible retail space was a much bigger problem than consumer discovery.
Within a couple weeks of starting the Springboard Mobile accelerator programme, we began building a software platform to connect both sides of the commercial retail market.
On one side is a vibrant, enthusiastic and innovative community of businesses and brands attracted to the ideas and ideals of short-term projects on monthly leases. On the other side we found agents and landlords with spaces falling vacant all over the UK with no system in place to effectively source this burgeoning community of new tenants.
In short, our inspiration has come from what we hear from businesses, landlords, councils, local communities and government initiatives attempting to solve the problems within retail, e-commerce, high-streets and a flailing economy nationwide.
NB: We rebranded the app from The Pop Spot to We Are Pop Up. Keeping your branding simple and SINGULAR is one of the many things learnt along the startup journey!
Are Pop up Shops a short term fix for empty retail space, or do you think Pop Up Shops have a place on our high streets for years to come?
The term ‘pop-up’ is problematic when it comes to effectively describing new trends in short-term retail. We’ve heard it called “instant retail,” “experiential retail,” “lean retail,” where “pop-up” sits somewhere both inside and outside of these concepts.
It works as an umbrella under which brands both massive (Nike, Puma, Audi, Chanel, Mont Blanc) and completely independent (Homebarn, A Grape Night In, Finchattida Finch, When Mac Met Cheese) are currently sitting together and attempting to understand one-another.
The implication are exciting. Many major cities in Britain, Western Europe, and the US are seeing a decline in large-scale static shops, and the rise of independent, tailored shopping experiences. We expect the term to fall out of fashion as the movement becomes ubiquitous. Pop-up retail started as a marketing stunt in 2003 and is today a $9B opportunity in the US (Bloomberg).
That market includes: a) online brands coming offline for the first time, b) businesses trialing products in different locations (both intercity and international), and c) rental models that can more sustainably support seasonal stock, distinctive product lines and events-based sales.
This is exciting for landlords, agents, and individuals with available space. Today, they have access to a whole new community of tenants. The marketplace we provide for them literally did not exist 6 months ago. And soon, they won’t remember a time without it. Forward-thinking retail landlords are setting out 25% of their property for short-term retailers. And that number is only going to rise.
How does your website make money?
We have a phased approach that starts with subscription fees for landlords – similar to LinkedIn for HR departments and recruiters. We’re a premium service that finds them the best talent for their spaces.
What advice would you give to a fledgling designer, craft maker, artist (in fact any type of potential retailer) who potentially wants to take that leap into selling their products offline?
Be persistent and to use as many tools as possible to get the kinds of support, community and networks necessary to get your shop set up.
Social networks, enterprise programs, and software can offer a lot today in the way of generating interest, building a brand from scratch, developing business plans, tracking engagement and most importantly: fostering a community of fans, supporters and customers.
Don’t spend your time listening to the people that tell you “it can’t be done”. Every day we talk to people at the forefront of retail innovation. The excitement and enthusiasm we find for new business concepts and fresh ideas is overwhelming, and a new generation of entrepreneurs are at the center of it.
Great to see you have been supported by some many established partners - what next for the WeArePopUp platform, the App and any other exciting platforms you have up your sleeves?
We are very lucky to have support and interest from some of London’s leading businesses and brands. Our next set of updates for wearepopup.com come directly from discussions and feedback from our incredibly supportive community.
You can expect to see a lot of new features and functionality in this first quarter: from enhanced social network integration to property listings and a ton of new features for business and shops, our main goal is to effectively and efficiently facilitate as many new retail experiences as possible throughout the UK.
We’ll be heading to SXSW as part of UKTI Mission in March. We can’t reveal any details yet, but it will be a chance for us to showcase our platform and global community in an entirely new way!