In urban cities, the shopping experience is mainly restricted to big malls with chain brand shops. More recently, Istanbul's pop-up stores have become a space where a stylish cafe can run as a boutique operation for independent brands. Popupla.co, a new platform, allows you to rent a space in Istanbul's trendy places to promote your brand for a brief time
Pop-up retailing is as old as the traffic jams in Turkey. It's those little children who try to sell you cold water on a hot summer day, red roses on Valentine's Day and an umbrella in the rain. When the lights turn green, and the rain stops, those street vendors are nowhere to be found. The problem with their methodology is that they do not have a sustainable business model. Without even a clear tax statement, you can't make a pitch to your potential investors.
Popupla.co, on the other hand, has a solid business model that can scale to a whole new market. Essentially a leasing website where designers can lease short-term retail space, popupla.co is a website for designers to enter the "traffic jam" of the retail market.
So if they would enter this "traffic jam sales" market, they would be the ones who rent the red lights to hawkers. As you can see in the more saturated markets of Los Angeles, New York and London, it doesn't have to be about the sales itself either: Both small and large retailers can test out the potential of new locations or brand-new products by getting customer feedback in Turkey without the long-term commitments required in other markets.
For store owners, this means renting their unused space to trending fashion brands or ideas. Such places could include a trendy cafe like Karaköy's Fil Books, a small boutique in Cihangir, a multi-functioning space like Habita in Istanbul's Sanayi neighborhood, a stylish patisserie in Nişantaşı such as La Patisserie Lune or a design store in Kadıköy.
'Retailtainment' the up-and-coming trend
Even if we don't know what this term means, "retailtainment" is something that we all need despite being unprepared for the "online-only" retail experience.
"Online retail and markets developed but during the process, a new dilemma rose in the market," said Şemsa Abbasoğlu, co-founder of popupla.co. "Today, customer habits prove that if a customer pays a fair amount of money for any product, that customer cares about the quality [of the product] and wants to test it before they pay for it," she added.
For instance in Turkey, online retail is 1 percent of the entire retail market, excluding food deliveries. One of the highly evolved markets belongs to the U.K. at 12 percent, followed by the U.S. at only 8.3 percent in 2016. For this reason, old-fashioned retail has transformed itself into a new concept called 'retailtainment.' Şemsa's startup aims to introduce that concept to Turkish landlords.
Running as photography store, Lomography is an alternative space for independent designers.
After working at Garanti Bank as a department supervisor, Şemsa launched popupla.co as a flash retailing startup with her husband, Mustafa Abbasoğlu as co-founders. As any young startups, popupla.co has less than five members on duty.
However, they did their homework, "We called and visited about 70 brands before launching the startup for market research," Şemsa explained. Reactions varied but overall many were positive and defined the business as a need. "Those were initial motives for us," she added.
How does the system work?
As an international transformation hub with astronomical prices per square meter in crowded places, Istanbul is the perfect place for such business to take root. Popupla.co customers can choose their retail location from the ever-expanding portfolio, or ask for guidance in choosing the ideal one for them. After that, according to customer budget and target market, the popupla.co team can help with the details such as booking a one-day pop-up or a longer 3-month pop-up.
If the customer wants to test more than one location, they can go for an entire week or just a busy weekend. If a customer foresees an opportunity at the location, or if target market is a perfect match, pop-ups can be then set for one month or longer.
As a product of sharing economy, popupla.co is built on three essential concepts; Sustainability, transparency and simplicity. "Since the concept is based on a multi-dimensional platform, the sustainability of each side of the platform is very important. Renting a shop is not an easy procedure and pricing is a serious issue in Turkey. The website popupla.co delivers a business model with simple steps for both sides," Şemsa said.
Shopping malls, like traffic lights, are everywhere in Istanbul. Despite the more than 350 malls across the country, renting prices are still as high as ever, making it harder for boutique operations to settle in. That's why, after taking root at street level, popupla.co aims to address this opportunity in 2017 by adding under-utilized rentable mall spaces to their portfolio. They also plan to go global.
Şemsa says that after the startup gains success in Turkey, their next target markets will be Berlin and Dubai.
"Berlin has already established its role in the pop-up business and designers want to establish themselves there as well. On the other hand, Dubai could be a good asset as well as a game changer," she said.
As the concept of ownership is gradually replaced with the shared market concept, new ways to effectively share the market while ensuring the sustainability of one's business are popping up online every day. My hopes are high for millennials to create more disruption in everyday operations to make the ordinary better, and Şemsa agrees with me on this.
"The next generation is after efficiency. Instead of possessing, they support the concept of using it when it is necessary or minimizing fixed costs. That's why, products of a shared economy will take a more prominent role in the future and there may be more disruptive models replacing old-fashioned businesses," she concluded.
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