In the wake of news that Amazon — the very same mega-retailer that put a generation of old-fashioned physical storefronts out of business — is allegedly planning the opening of its first brick-and-mortar store, it becomes apparent that all bets are off in the land of predictable retail development.
Which explains the success of Storefront, a clever new operation that matchmakes brands, merchants and artisans with the physical space in which they might — however temporarily — hawk their wares.
The San Francisco-based organization oversees the short-term rentals of storefronts to folks with a product to sell and a hankering to do so via a channel more tangible than the electronic one. Thanks to this bit of novelty, small business owners who want to try out ideas without committing to conventional three- or five-year leases, can.
And on the supplier side, find store owners with underused corners, seasonal retailers who are struggling with an off-season stretch, even nightclub owners looking for revenue during the day.
Whether it be a booth at an outdoor market, a kiosk in a mall or a dedicated store on a busy shopping thoroughfare, Storefront sets would-be retailers up with the physical environs in which to conduct their business. In so doing, its founders explain, the concept puts otherwise vacant retail space (one in 10 stores in the US have no tenants) to meaningful use, while empowering entrepreneurs and stimulating local economies along the way.
Storefront charges renters a commission of between six and 12 percent. The fee comes with general liability insurance, marketing and promotions help, and a wealth of customer support.
The company currently lists retail spaces in San Francisco and New York, and has plans to expand ambitiously. “We didn’t invent pop-ups,” Storefront cofounder Tristan Pollock recently told The New York Times. “We’re just making it easier to do them.”