Use of pop-up rental platforms on the rise

A pop-up store by Naiise in Singapore. The local lifestyle retailer is among users of Storefront, an online global marketplace for pop-up space rental that will be launched in Singapore by January.
A pop-up store by Naiise in Singapore. The local lifestyle retailer is among users of Storefront, an online global marketplace for pop-up space rental that will be launched in Singapore by January. PHOTO: NAIISE

When local lifestyle retailer Naiise wanted to secure a pop-up space in London, it turned to Storefront, an online marketplace for rental pop-up spaces.

With one website, Naiise could view the thousands of store vacancies across the city, without having to approach individual landlords.

It was "especially helpful in a market you are unfamiliar with, or have limited industry partners and contacts", said Naiise founder Dennis Tay.

If response is warm to the London pop-up store, which will open this month and focus on local and Asian design products, bricks-and-mortar stores may follow in Britain, he added.

In Singapore, the use of such platforms is on the rise. Besides Storefront, there are PopUp Angels, Invade and Pop Up Here.

They have sprung up over the last two years, offering platforms for landlords to list spaces for rental for anywhere from a day to several months.

Storefront, the biggest global online marketplace for pop-up space rental, will be launching in Singapore by January, it told The Straits Times.

The Airbnb-style website will allow small business owners to test the waters by browsing from a catalogue of up to 800 listings in malls and other locations in Singapore.

It boasts some 11,000 listings in six cities, including London, Paris and, most recently, Hong Kong, with the firm's entry into Asia last year.

Storefront Asia chief executive Benoit Clement-Bollee said the company is in talks with landlords here, including SMRT Alpha, which manages Kallang Wave mall.

Apart from e-commerce retailers, brands with existing bricks-and-mortar stores, such as L'Oreal, Nike and Chanel, have used the platform for events like product launches and to test new markets.

Local firm PopUp Angels, which launched in 2015, has about 300 spaces available for short-term rental in malls, shophouses and event spaces.

Its director Adrian Chan said: "When we first started, it took a lot of convincing to get landlords on board."

But there is less resistance now with greater awareness and growing demand for pop-ups and short-term rentals, he added.

While short-term rental rates are generally higher than those for long-term leases preferred by landlords, there are exceptions.

"Some malls may be more interested in the traffic or variety that a retailer can bring to the mall rather than the rental revenue itself," said Mr Chan.

A spokesman for Cathay Malls said it would be open to working with Storefront as pop-ups "inject fresh retail offerings and enhance the tenant mix at the mall".

It has already collaborated with PopUp Angels to bring Korean cosmetic brand Tony Moly to Cathay Cineleisure Orchard next month, said the spokesman.

With a growing supply of empty retail space, such pop-up rental platforms can be a boon to landlords, while encouraging fresh concepts to take shape, said retail and property experts.

The vacancy rate for retail space rose to 8.1 per cent in the second quarter of this year, from 7.7 per cent in the previous quarter, according to data from the Urban Redevelopment Authority.

Ms Esther Ho, deputy director at Nanyang Polytechnic's School of Business Management, said the growing acceptance of pop-ups can help to address the "cookie cutter" complaints often levelled at malls.

"This is a good opportunity for new start-ups and brands that have been held back by long-term contracts and high fixed costs."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 02, 2017, with the headline Use of pop-up rental platforms on the rise. Subscribe