We Are Pop Up hits product-market fit

Nicholas Russell

The sharing economy for retail shops goes mainstream

Five years in three months

We Are Pop Up did great business in Q4. Our customers booked shops at an unprecedented rate — five years of retail shops launched in a single quarter.

Generally, customers book pop-up shops two to three weeks in ahead of opening. For Christmas 2014, 30% of shops booked and launched within 48 hours. Less than two days from finding a space on WeArePopUp.com to opening a shop.

Waiting for January

We’ve been watching in January to see if the explosive growth over the holidays continues. The holidays are easy for anything related to retail. The true test is January.

Have we brought the sharing economy to retail shops, or are we marching in lock-step with the rest of the industry?

Today, we got the answer, and the results are better than expected.

The average number of tenant contracts that an individual space has executed on the We Are Pop Up platform.

Brands are flocking to spaces on We Are Pop Up.

Go big and go home

Brands book a space for two to five weeks, on average. Some choose to “go big and go home” by taking a weekend or a week in a high-profile space. Others go for 6 months off the beaten track, enjoying the flexibility and efficiency of transacting online.

In October, the average space had taken 1.5 brands. In January, the average space had taken 3.5 brands. This is hugely exciting, because it means people are now operating retail spaces that are powered by our sharing economy platform.

Brand–space fit = Product-market fit

When I first had the idea for We Are Pop Up, I also knew the moment it would achieve product-market fit. The moment when people made space for it. Back then, I didn’t know exactly what that “space” looked like or who would “make” it, but I knew that’s when We Are Pop Up would hit it big.

The answer is people making space for other people. Brands making space for other brands in their boutiques, shops, galleries, and restaurants.

Glassworks in Dalston

For the last two years, I’ve been watching our customers build new brands. Build new fashion boutiques. Build new restaurants. Build new careers. Build new fortunes.

And now, they’re building new spaces. Which means they are building new consumer destinations, building new revenue streams, building new High Streets, and building new communities.

And with us, they’re doing it 24x7 at the best price in the market.

The cost of taking risks has never been lower

Earlier this year, we decided to lower our fee from 15% to 10%. We started at 15% because “that’s what the agents charge”. When we saw brands working with other brands, we took a page from the Amazon playbook and lowered it to 10%. To give our customers the lowest prices possible, and make it up on volume.

That turned out to be a triple win. Today, both brands and spaces pay less with We Are Pop Up than anywhere else in the market, and our turnover grew 200% last year.

The rise of Shop Share

Shop Share really changed things. We as a company (and probably as a country) spent a lot of time focused on the vacant shop problem, that we often forgot that it is more important to keep shops healthy.

If the vacancy rate is 13%, that means 87% of the shops are alive and trading. And We Are Pop Up now does more than applaud the fact they’re not dead. We ensure they can grow and thrive.

Every retailer in the UK is a Shop Share

Shop Share has enabled hundreds of retailers, boutiques, restaurants, galleries — basically anyone with a High Street space — to share space. The collaborations are amazing — there are no barriers and few boundaries.

The Porridge Bar

Coffeeshops in hair salons. Engagement parties in coffeeshops. Bikini shops in travel agencies. Ice cream shops in flower stores. Bridal stores in a homewares shop. Street food in art galleries. Pubs in print shops. Art exhibitions in pubs.

Retailers use Shop Share for two benefits. The first is to bring in new brands, products, and services. That ranges from renting a table to Portuguese fashion brand, to inviting a barista into your salon, to renting out an entire art gallery as a branded pop-up store.

Small spaces, big earnings

The second benefit is sharing rent. When they start, Shop Share customers easily make £750 — £2000 a month in revenue. And it’s possible to earn much more. Last year, the top two Shop Share spaces made £26k each. One hosted 3 brands over 5 months, and the other hosted 1 brand for 6 months.

Every retailer and leisure operator in the UK should be on our Shop Share service. Email me at nick@wearepopup.com and we’ll get you signed up.

What happens next?

We’re speaking with customers and users (hello!), and launching new features to improve the experience. The software team is going through a renaissance at the moment, launching something new nearly every day. Yesterday it was Space Alerts, which notify brands instantly when new spaces come up in preferred neighbourhoods.

I am also fascinated by the customers that are building businesses on top of the platform. I’m looking into those over the next few months and we’ll be sharing a lot more about them.

These platforms are political and social movements

Finally, as we continue building We Are Pop Up, these are the thoughts that are occupying my mind:

What opportunities are created when people across the country — and around the world — all start sharing their shops?

What happens when High Street retailers have access to a powerful new tool designed to keep them healthy?

How can we build more volume to lower our fees? Today, we’re half the price of the competition, and the same price as AirBNB. How can we be cheaper than AirBNB?

What kind of spaces will people build to list on We Are Pop Up? What kind of brands will develop in those spaces? Can we have an impact on youth unemployment? Will we bring people together in new ways, or are we ultimately just another listing site like Zoopla?

What else can you do with a shop, besides traditional sales or engage with the millennial audience segment? What else can a shop be? What else can a shop do?

It’s been an amazing journey over the last three years. And this is the most exciting moment by far.

All best.


    Nicholas Russell

    Written by

    Founder / Speaker / Advisor. Currently, Project X NYC. Previously, @WeArePopUp, @Oxford

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