The Spacefil Manifesto
This article was an attempt to lay out the company’s purpose, process, and ambitions; and also to produce a body of content, parts of which could be used for informational or promotional material as needed.
We’ve seen how the internet has given creators access to markets otherwise unreachable through conventional retail. It has empowered small and medium brands to monetize their creative passions with countless distributional channels and promotional platforms.
But there is something missing in the ecommerce formula. A point demonstrated by the fact that in the last ten years, the ecommerce sector has captured less than 10% of retail sales in North America & Europe.
Some of this can be attributed to the lack of interaction with the actual product, lack of instant gratification upon purchase, and lack of social pressures and incentives to buy. And because online shopping allows visitors time-independence, location-independence, and social-independence, they becomes more difficult to convert. Urban shopping landscapes, on the other hand, have an environment designed to promote purchasing behaviours and they continue to dominate with big brands and retailers.
Millennials are changing the rules of retail
Meanwhile, a strongly opinionated generation of Millennials are beginning to exert substantial influence on the retail industry with their purchasing habits. They are leaving shopping malls, seeking out more authentic experiences, supporting more local businesses, participating in the sharing economy, insisting on ecological sustainability, demanding more transparency from suppliers, and appealing for ethical treatment of workers and animals. To satisfy their needs some shop online, some travel to shop, but fewer shop at brand stores and fewer still at big box retailers.
Simply because they feel no attachment to corporations and brands that seem so far and detached from them.
But they still do love to shop and they are visiting more boutiques and niche stores, more galleries and workshops, more authentic restaurants and cafes - because all of these places have something genuine to offer. Beyond their unique character and identity is a genuine care for their space, and a genuine care for their patrons.
We celebrate diversity, rarity and individual talent
Spend an afternoon on Pinterest or browse through some popular subreddits and you’ll quickly find yourself with a wishlist of stuff you never knew existed or never thought you wanted to buy. But what is often holding you back (besides the inevitable limit of cash) is the ease with which you can “favourite and forget” all of these products.
The place where we continue to spend most of our money continues to be in the street, despite the fact that our choices there are often reduced to just more-of-the-same.
We need to bring this seemingly infinite supply of unique, innovative products from creators’ workshops to authentic retailers around the world.
Make retail accessible to creators
Demand for affordable retail space is not immediately obvious simply because the supply is not readily available. Most retailers operate within an established supply chain, which is difficult for most brands to tap into. Currently, if a brand wants to enter retail, they are limited to the following options:
- Run events and pop-up shops
- Lease, furnish, stock, and operate a long-term retail space
- Enter into a consignment with an existing retail space
For most creators, it is very expensive and time-consuming to run an event (like the One of a Kind show), and even more so to set up a pop-up shop or a long-term retail location - not only because of the required capital, but more simply because most brands don’t need a large space to display their products. On the other hand, consignment deals are an even more time-consuming process, one which can often feel frustrating and rarely pays large dividends in profits and exposure.
The present retail landscape simply doesn’t offer an easy and affordable way for small brands and creators to access any portion of their space. Retailers are currently restricted by an established supply chain model of wholesalers, brokers, distributors and countless others who stand between them and the brands they carry.
Establish a sharing economy in retail locations
By creating rentable areas for brands to place their products, spaces can host high quality, authentic brands, eliminate the cost of inventory, attract new customers, and receive their desired rate for a decided duration of time. Owners of shops, boutiques, galleries, restaurants and other similar spaces have a unique opportunity to reshape the structure of retail as we know it. Any space that is privately owned and has a POS system can potentially participate.
Rebuild the relationship between long-lost colleagues
Once upon a time, merchants would buy goods and wares directly from craftsmen, artists, and farmers.
But over time, the distance between them grew, as did their scale of operations. And today, despite our digital interconnectedness, this divide still remains - for no good reason other than convention. It’s time to reacquaint these old trading partners.
Connecting spaces with brands
Both spaces and brands need a platform where they can connect and mutually vet one another for compatibility in products, price, and placement. This platform must provide protection to users’ privacy, identity and reputation. It must facilitate access to secure communication and transactions between users. It must also provide sufficient guidance, information, and resources to new users and visitors.
Provide rentable surfaces
Retailers can designate areas, like tables and shelves, which they are willing to rent to a suitable brand for a determinate period of time. These areas can be as big or small as the owner decides and priced at his or her discretion. They can include anything from mannequins and racks to floor- and wall-space.
Incentive for brands
Rentable surfaces can offer online brands a completely new way to think about growing audiences and sales. By establishing a temporary presence inside existing urban retail locations, brands can give their customers and followers a brief chance to experience their products first-hand and purchase it on the spot. It also provides an opportunity to reach completely new kinds of customers and grow their community.
Most established brands invest a lot of resources into marketing and promotion. They have to advertise frequently to tap into new distributional channels and to reach new audiences. Diverting some of these resources into rentable spaces can have more significant returns in profits, brand exposure, customer acquisition, and media coverage.
Both spaces and brands are very protective of their image and reputation. And rightly so! Those are the results of their life’s ambitions and more than just a day-job. And it is important to empower authentic users with an established pedigree for quality and care. Resellers and spammers pose a threat to the integrity of this project.
If we are to facilitate seamless trading between spaces and brands, we also need to provide easy access to essential services needed to accomplish that task. Services like packaging, labelling, shipping, photography, marketing, merchandising, security, insurance, and possibly others.
Ensure trust and safety
It will take a community to bring this project to life.
Establishing a secure and supportive platform for brands and retailers is the necessary foundation for a thriving community.
Access and transparency
Access to the platform must necessarily be limited to verified spaces and brands. An initial invite-only approach to building the community should be employed in order to ensure eligibility and authenticity.
Ability to search and contact listed brands and spaces should be made available to all active users, as well as the ability to conduct seamless negotiations and transactions. Access must be restricted to third parties and bots. And freedom to delete personal information and/or withdraw from the platform must also be available to all users.
Filtering and moderating
Both retailers and brands can have very specific requirements for their desired products and spaces. A retail space that is interested in inquiries from brands with specific products should be able to indicate so in their preferences. A space that isn’t interested in hosting a certain category of products should be able to prevent messages from brands that exclusively carry them. On the other hand, brands should have a seamless interface for finding potential spaces based on their mutual preferences and requirements.
Hosting and reporting
When a deal is brokered between a space and a brand, the space owner assumes responsibility for the product - including stocking, placement, sales, and returns. They are also encouraged to provide frequent sales updates and feedback in order to offer the brand new insight into their product and customers.
What we design, designs us back.
We have to recognize the importance of playing an active and creative role in continuing to advance the designs of our spaces and products.
We believe that empowering creative collectives and individuals can help reshape and improve our surroundings immediately and for the future.
We believe that our freedom to choose goes beyond the options we’re given.
We believe that celebrating authenticity within the sharing economy can help to liberate the creative marketplace and strengthen local communities worldwide.
We believe that providing a supportive platform can empower our instincts to collectively organize, assist, profit, and grow, and to ultimately set a new standard and establish a new way of thinking about the relationship between creators and retail.
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