The COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions that come with it has drastically affected the retail industry in Singapore.
It has forced retailers, especially those that are heavily focused on brick-and-mortar to ramp up their online presence or seek alternative avenues to reach customers. Retailers who fail to pivot quickly enough risk losing out.
As a testament to this, Singapore saw various brands leaving its shores early last year and opting to move online instead.
While the pandemic is detrimental to traditional retailers, it served as a catalyst for the rise in e-commerce, particularly the boom of home-based businesses.
However, e-commerce and brick-and-mortar stores rarely exist in silos.
According to retail industry expert and ex-director of CBRE Chan Yee Yin, “customers still value elements of a traditional retail experience, such as the physical touch and feel of the product.”
How then, do fledgling e-commerce and home-based businesses meet the needs of their customers?
This is where pop-up stores like Invade’s Makers’ Market come into play, which acts as a sustainable alternative for online merchants who want to sell their products physically as well.
Giving Online Brands A Human Touch
Pop-up stores are a viable option for both small and large businesses that want an alternative channel to connect with their customers and sell their wares.
Yee Yin told Vulcan Post that pop-up retail has the ability to make an established brand “feel more modern and expose it to different market segments.” This makes it an inviting option for larger, established brands that have not started dealing offline yet.
As for smaller businesses, pop-up stores provide the valuable opportunity to interact with customers without having to pay rent for a permanent store space.
In an interview with Vulcan Post, Jean Kuah, the founder of Mochibuddies, shared that she first started selling at pop-up stores in late 2018. Since then, she has been renting a pop-up store every month to sell her acrylic keychains and brooches.
The full-time graphic designer shared that operating out of pop-up stores is a good way for her to interact with existing and new customers.
“I always find it nice to be able to meet my supporters. It’s also great to be able to hear their feedback (in person) so that I can improve on my art even more,” the 27-year-old said.
Similarly, Elaine, the founder of August By E, routinely seeks out pop-up stores by Invade to bring her products to more customers beyond the online community.
She began frequenting pop-up stores in December 2019, just a few months after she officially launched the business in August that year.
Elaine shared that meeting her customers physically has enabled her to better understand their preferences and needs, allowing them to customise their jewellery as well.
She added that she also experienced an outpouring interest for her products after selling them physically, which motivated her to continue sourcing for retail pop-up stores.
Besides connecting with existing customers, pop-up stores are also a good way for business owners to generate new sales leads.
After every Makers’ Market event, Jean said that she sees a “significant growth” in Mochibuddies’ social media following.
Lower Costs And Minimised Risks
Besides being a platform to reach out to customers and expand sales channels, pop-up stores also lowers the risks and costs associated with starting a physical store.
It is common knowledge that rental costs continue to be one of the key factors that lead to the undoing of brands with a brick-and-mortar presence.
The Covid-19 pandemic spelled a record-high vacancy rate of 8.0 to 9.6 percent as tenants withdrew from major malls.
Observers have commented that the tussle between landlords and tenants is not specific to the Covid-19 economy. In fact, the asymmetrical power dynamics have long been in the making.
Inherently, landlords tend to hold more power over tenants as practices like Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITS) incentivise landlords to focus on rental extraction rather than tenant welfare.
Furthermore, it was reported that retailers pay exorbitant sums under popular Gross Turnover Rent models, which extract a percentage of store sales.
Pop-up shops provide the opportunity to bring a refined service into several different markets without the risks of unsold inventory or the cost outlay of permanent store space.
“Since pop-ups create their own spaces and return those spaces to their original form when vacating, there’s very little maintenance required, reducing the carrying costs for vacant real estate,” said Yee Yin.
In other words, pop-up shops are an agile plug-and-play concept, and it can be set up with minimal fuss and manpower.
For new business owners, pop-up stores can be a lower-stakes springboard for refining everything from product offerings to store protocols. This allows retailers to test the viability of long-term tenancies and better understand what works well and what does not.
To add on, pop-up shops are an especially viable approach for retailers when utilised where traditional retailers do business, such as in shopping malls.
The built-in infrastructure and benefits such as parking facilities and higher footfall help to improve the retailers’ chances of succeeding.
The pop-up retailers shared that Makers’ Market are often hosted at strategic locations that receive high levels of human traffic. Such locations include *SCAPE, an iconic location for Singaporean millennials, Esplanade Mall, and Changi Airport.
Empower Your Business With Makers’ Market
As the pandemic is gradually brought under control with more of the population being vaccinated, more consumers are looking forward to dining out and retail shopping.
It might also be a good time for home-based businesses to attempt to strike out into the realm of physical shopping.
Makers’ Market is a worthy consideration to start up at. It’s a curated marketplace concept that brings together crafts and design goods from around the region, focusing on supporting startups, brands and designers.
Moreover, merchants such as Jean and Elaine who peddle their wares at various pop-up events of Makers’ Market have reported a significant growth in sales.
Furthermore, the Makers’ Market also provides marketing support for merchants.
According to Averia Chung, founder of Glamourousme83, the Makers’ Market team often takes pictures of her products and shares them on their social media pages pre- and post- event.
This marketing support has helped her to successfully reach out to more customers at various events and locations.
Jean also emphasised that the staff at Makers’ Market readily take in feedback from retailers, which makes the entire onboarding process enjoyable and seamless.
As brands and retailers are trying to wrap their heads around how consumer behavior is changing due to the pandemic, selling at pop-up stores can act as a way to garner feedback and build a customer base.
To start selling at Makers’ Market, you can browse through the available spaces and make a booking here.
This article was written in collaboration with Invade Makers’ Market.
Featured Image Credit: Invade Makers’ Market
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