Forward Venture Partners recently announced an investment in AppearHere. AppearHere is a marketplace for pop up shops: matching vacant retail space with brands and ecommerce companies who need a physical customer experience.
Our investment thesis (as always) rests on the entrepreneur: AppearHere is led by the inimitable Ross Bailey our youngest investee to date.
There are also some other pretty significant parts of the investment thesis.
1) Online retailers will see physical retail as an ally not enemy. All retailers need to give their customers the touch and feel of real life goods and ALSO their "brand experience": where the customer eventually buys will be less important. Moo.com 's recent experiments are a good example. As is the successful Rapha store. As is the new "store" of House of Fraser in Aberdeen. The HOF store is particularly interesting: it stocks one of each of the top selling SKUs in a small shop in rural Aberdeen, but customer can buy all the products from in store tablets and have them delivered the next day.
So what? So online retailers need physical retail and pop ups.
2) All brands need to get closer (and sell direct) to their customers: longer term the dis-intermediation of the retail world is inevitable. Does Speedo really want to sell to Sports Authority or would it rather sell more product direct. errr. What do you think?
So what? So brands need to sell direct: pop ups are a great way to test it.
3) Many brands see shops as an advertising space for their products. For example Apple sells 12% of it's products via the Apple shops but MANY customers first more experience them in the store. Ask Leon Bailey Green nicely and he will tell you that many retailers see a direct correlation between where stores are/are opened and online sales in that region.
Brands see the store as a big advert.
Imagine a world where key retailer space is valued, NOT on it's turnover per Sq Ft but instead for it's available frontage and charged on a CPM basis...
So what? So brands are starting to value retail space as CPM not as as CPA.
We think those are three significant market drivers that create an interesting opportunity for a disruptive company.
The deal was led by star of Forward, Yannick Roux, in conjunction with the business builders Forward Labs: who bring early stage ideas to product/market fit. With additional backing from Russell Buckley at BallPark Ventures and the rather special founders of TopTen.