Stores

This marketplace is helping small brands find short-term retail space

It’s like Match.com for brands and shopping centers.
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Boston Retail Solutions

· less than 3 min read

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As retailers, malls, and shopping centers are increasingly open to short-term leases, and small retail brands are eager to fill them, one startup called Popable is playing matchmaker.

Popable, founded in 2017, currently has ~10,000 brands on its pop-up marketplace, from food stands to bridal boutiques, which it’s connecting with the 1,500–2,000 vacancies it has nationwide through retail real-estate partners like Simon, Kimco, and Brookfield Property Partners.

“That’s a good way for them to keep the lights on in the shopping center, generate a little extra revenue, and provides an opportunity for brands that are looking for ways to grow their pop-up,” Scott Blair, Popable’s co-founder and CEO, told us.

Its latest partnership is Walmart, which joined the platform last week to allow small brands to rent out short-term front-of-store space in time for the holiday shopping season.

  • Walmart has ~150 spaces available in Texas, Illinois, Georgia, and Colorado. Darryl Spinks, Walmart’s senior director of retail services, said in a statement the move exemplifies its “focus on offering services unique to the neighborhoods we serve.”

Meet your match: While similar platforms follow a broker model, representing either the retailer or brand in the lease, Blair told us Popable is a “peer-to-peer platform,” essentially a Match.com for brands and retailers.

“When you’re leasing space for retail, booking like a hotel doesn’t really work well,” he said. “You really need to walk the property, have the conversation with the party on the other side, and negotiate the terms.”

  • Brands can create a listing and then directly message leasing agents at shopping centers with open space they’re interested in.
  • They can also message other brands to join forces to lease a pop-up together, a trend that’s growing, Blair said.

Rent out of shape: While demand booms during the holidays, Blair said interest in short-term leases is growing year round. One of the main reasons? Paying rent on time and in full has been a continuing problem for small retail brands.

A survey published late last month from Alignable found that US small retail businesses’ rent delinquency rose to 43% in October, up from 31% in September, the sharpest increase of the year for the sector. More brands have been turning to short-term leases to “mitigate some of that risk,” Blair said.

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