Appear Here and Square have partnered to launch a new contest for retail and brand entrepreneurs called Space for Ideas, under which entrepreneurs submit their retail concepts and compete for the opportunity to operate a flagship retail store for two weeks in a busy shopping neighborhood of London, Paris or New York City.
The competition began last week and entrepreneurs have four more weeks to apply. Three winners, announced on Sept. 21, will be awarded short-term retail space and $4,000 to spend on designing their spaces, with the actual stores set to open for a two-week period in October.
The judges for the contest, who will also advise the winners, include Neil Blumenthal, co-founder of Warby Parker; Natalie Massenet, founder of Net-a-Porter and co-chairman of Farfetch; Ajaz Ahmed, founder of AKQA and Nick Jones, founder and CEO of Soho House. Square will also provide winners with hardware to process payments.
Appear Here, a marketplace for short-term retail space, and Square are making an interesting play by giving store space away rent-free to three top entrepreneurs. The competition essentially allows an idea to move from concept to pop-up store in the span of a couple of months.
At a time when non-traditional retailers — such as Google — are embracing pop-up stores, and long-time retailers — like Nordstrom — are buying into the concept as a way to refresh their in-store space, the idea of a short-term pop-up is not as odd as it might have sounded a few years ago.
What can a retail or brand entrepreneur gain from such an experience? For starters, increased awareness for the brand and the store concept, which might in turn lead to connections interested in funding or further developing the winning idea. Then there's the experience of managing the store. Even a two-week stint can provide an entrepreneur with some valuable insights into what it takes to manage a storefront in a hot neighborhood.
Appear Here has worked in the past with major brands like Nike, Loewe, Givenchy, Coca-Cola, Net-a-Porter and Kanye West on their short-term retail space needs, as well as with retailers like TOPSHOP to list short-term space in their stores. The company says it has more than 4,000 exclusive spaces listed for availability in the UK and France, and back in April added New York City locations in the Nolita, Soho, West Village, Chelsea and Williamsburg neighborhoods.