New startup Republic Spaces helps connect retail space owners with new and indie online brands. This gives brands access to the larger retail economy while storefronts can avoid empty and unprofitable rental periods.


Online marketplaces have enabled emerging and independent merchants to share their unique products with the world, but much opportunity lies in physical retail – at least in the opinion of temporary retail space facilitator Republic Spaces, which gives designers and other types of small vendors a space to connect with short-term retail spaces. Retail space owners list their store with Republic Spaces, and vendors list their items. The site offers free support to both links of the commerce chain, charging stores only for successful booking of brands to their space. This includes marketing, professional storefront photography, and the listing itself. Essentially, Republic Spaces creates a marketplace that matches designers and empty store spaces.

Most purchases still happen in physical stores

Vendors get the benefits of physical retail stores - foot traffic, new market testing, and the bulk of retail economy, which is still offline. Republic Spaces has built their business strategy around the fact that 90 percent of purchases still take place outside of e-commerce, and their site gives vendors an opportunity to connect with the majority of customers. E-commerce grew 15 percent in the third quarter of 2012, according to ComScore, but still most shopping takes place in offline situations. Since the spaces are only available for short-term rental, small vendors can try out storefront retail and take notes, as well as try a variety of locations that have different shopper demographics.

Bringing online vendors to real world storefronts

This sharing model works well in the context of the pop-up trend. Short-term retail spaces let brands gain storefront experience while remaining flexible. Restaurants, boutiques and seasonal stores have been making the most of short-term rentals to minimize costs while benefiting from storefront presence. Pre-existing online marketplaces have been popping-up, such as Etsy and eBay, who both opened spaces in New York for the December 2012 Holiday Season. While these established sites connected with retail spaces themselves for shopping events, as Republic Spaces becomes more populated with storefront listings, it is possible that other, smaller marketplaces will be looking to them for opportunities along with individual designers.

By Ivory King