Appear Here: Shaking up the world of commercial property, one city at a time
The founder of Appear Here spoke to Business Advice about how he identified a gap in the market for short-term space rentals and succeeded in filling it.
Commercial property, with its five-year contracts and small number of big players, seems like a difficult target for a disruptive startup. But though Ross Bailey took a gamble when trying to get a staid industry to see the benefits that pop-ups on short-term leases could bring, it was one that certainly paid off.
His company a digital platform which connects retailers looking for pop-up space with landlords was recently named Young Company of the year in the 2015 Growing Business Awards, hosted by our sister title Real Business.
Bailey created Appear Here after realising through personal experience that there was a gap in the market. He struggled to secure a unit for the pop-up clothing business Rock and Rule that he wanted to create to sell t-shirts inspired by the Queen in the run-up to the Diamond Jubilee in 2012.
it wasnt too hard to find the space as I knew I wanted to be in Soho, so I simply went out onto the streets looking for empty spaces, he said.
But once Bailey found an empty shop it was ‘stupidly hard? to book it, because landlords were unsure about the risk posed by short leases. When he eventually secured the space, other aspiring retailers flocked to Rock and Rule to enquire about taking it on next.
we ended up letting a lot of them join us in the pop-up, Bailey said. Then when we finally shut up shop, I got a phone call from a major American sportswear brand which was looking for a pop-up shop in the run up to the Olympics and wanted to know if I could help. That’s when I realised I might be onto something.
Appear Here now allows retailers looking for space to browse available units online and sign short-term leases in under two weeks. The main challenge was persuading the property industry, which hadnt changed for the last few decades, to give us their vacant spaces to not only list online but to market for flexible rents, Bailey explained.
But hewas able to win over major landlords including British Land, Legal & General and Capital & Regional with his argument that pop-ups were the best way to utilise empty space. Appear Here has collaborated with Transport for London to turn parts of Old Street station into space for pop-ups, and, most recently, with Topshop Topman to create pop-up pitches in the brand’s flagship Oxford Circus Store.
Hannah Wilkinson is a reporter for Business Advice. She studied economics and management at Oxford University and prior to joining Business Advice wrote for Kensington and Chelsea Today about business and economics as well as running a tutoring company.