Brand Support: Retail Embraces Co-Working Spaces
Traditional workplaces are dwindling in the US and Europe as the demand for new co-working formats grows. The sector is forecast to grow 21% in 2016 in the US (CBRE, 2016) – with spaces largely occupied by independent consultants, freelancers or ‘solopreneurs’ looking for out-of-home hotspots – while in the UK, self-employment has risen over 25% in the last decade (VirginStartUp, 2016).
Smart retailers are bidding to capture this nomadic market by integrating new design and technology into their stores and malls, advertising their innovation credentials in the process.
Shop Floor Office Space
Store formats offering drop-in workspaces – either fully branded or in collaboration with established co-working providers – are proving invaluable for tapping those consumers who shift between business and leisure.
- US denim giant Levi’s pioneered the idea in 2014 by hosting cyclist-centric Commuter Workspace pop-ups in London, LA and New York. The venues featured free wi-fi, a bike repair workshop, working areas and a café – allowing visitors and workers to socialise and/or work away from the office. See Levi’s Commuter Workspace.
- US office supply retailer Staples has collaborated with Workbar – a US platform renting co-working spaces to freelancers or start-ups. Unused floor space in three of the chain’s suburban branches across Boston and Massachusetts has been transformed to feature state-of-the-art teleconferencing rooms, stand-up desks and bookable private rooms. Custom-designed for Staples retail outlets and accessible to all Workbar members, the slots cost $130 (£100) a month.
- Within its lifestyle-oriented Sao Paulo branch, Brazilian menswear brand Reserva is offering part of its shop floor to co-workers, free of charge. Open to everyone, it’s equipped with a café, onsite barbershop and an area for playing video games.
- During London Design Festival 2016, Ikea popped up for two weeks with a multifaceted gastronomic oasis in Shoreditch, East London, which included a Scandi-inspired café, free wi-fi and high-sided, cocoon-like chairs to tempt the area’s creative nomadic workforce.
Retail Nurtures Retail: Incubator Spaces
Nurturing in-house research and design within the retail realm and establishing early access to innovations, conventional retail space is transformed by malls, department stores and banks into an acceleration venue for young entrepreneurs.
- Bangkok-based lifestyle department store Siam Discovery has dedicated one of its discovery ‘lab’ areas (see full blog post) to co-working, focusing on retail start-ups in order to create a collaborative environment with access to new innovations and technologies. Managed by Thai workspace start-up Hubba, the space allows consumers with retail start-ups to work and collaborate, host meetings and take part in dedicated career/tech-related workshops, as well as benefitting from a mentorship programme.
- The San Francisco outpost of shopping mall giant Westfield has supplanted the retail space on its fourth floor for Bespoke – a 200-seater co-working, events and demonstration area exclusively for online retail start-ups. Targeting digital-first businesses, the demo space enables them to beta test their innovation in a realistic context. The space also features mini conference rooms, an event space for up to 1,200 people, a library and a tech-enhanced shared kitchen where co-workers can order food from the mall’s food court via an app. Each office has two doors – one opening into the internal workspace and the other directly onto the mall.
- Polish banking provider Idea Bank launched free co-working spaces in the country’s major cities, supporting the local start-up scene and acting as a brand perception exercise. Separate to its branches, Idea Hubs have no actual banking facilities. Equipped with conference rooms, free wi-fi and a café, the destinations heavily target the area's young entrepreneurs and freelancers. See also Reimagining Retail Banking.