Coworking company WeWork plans to expand its WeMRKT concept to 500 more locations "over the next couple of years, along with an e-commerce store," according to a report from Digiday.
The retail concept dedicated to selling products made by WeWork members, including healthy snacks, office necessities and branded apparel, launched in July. The first WeMRKT is at the company's 205 Hudson address in New York and three more have opened in the city, with additional locations planned for across the country.
WeWork has branched into various business areas aimed at benefiting its members, including the establishment of a gym in New York, education with the acquisition of coding school Flatiron School and plans for an elementary school, as well as a partnership with J. Crew.
WeWork has ambitious plans for its retail operations, but it's already behind in some measures.
Its WeMRKT online store was originally planned for September this year, for example, according to a Retail Dive interview this summer with Julie Rice, WeWork's Chief Brand Officer and the former co-founder and co-CEO of SoulCycle. But that hasn't yet materialized and is among plans for the next couple of years according to Digiday's report.
Products for WeMKT are selected at pitch nights using criteria that include creativity, innovation, capability and scalability, impact, and the product itself. In July Rice told Retail Dive that WeWork plans to do four official pitch nights a year, with judges and products changing quarterly. Digiday's report centered on the most recent pitch session.
When the co-working company bought Lord & Taylor's iconic Fifth Avenue property for $850 million in October 2017, it was said to be mulling an expansion into retail, which could include short-term retail leases or incorporating shops into co-working spaces as an amenity for members. WeMRKT appears to be just that.
But in interviews with Retail Dive earlier this year, several observers expressed skepticism. Marcus Moufarrige, COO of Servcorp, a coworking and serviced office space that also offers virtual office products and IT services, noted that real estate can be challenging and questioned his competitor's move into retail. "I'm not sure why WeWork is doing [WeMRKT]," he said "They lost almost a billion dollars last year. And you tell people that losing money is all right if you gain market share, but if you're not making your core business — which is coworking — work, you won't make retail work."