It's a strange time for e-commerce startups. While most of the retail world is trying to figure out how to make the shift from brick and mortar to online, most e-commerce startups are trying to do the opposite and find a way to let people discover and test out products in person without breaking the bank on a retail lease. So one unlikely player is trying to help them out - Simon Malls, the largest shopping mall operator in America with over 300 shopping centers.
Simon is creating a "scaleable retail platform" called The Edit that essentially functions as a pop-up space where e-commerce startups can get their products in front of customers.
Of course if you picture affordable and flexible pop-up spaces for young e-commerce brands, malls are probably the last place you'd imagine. Mall spaces almost exclusively require long and expensive leases that are impossible for e-commerce startups to justify. It's also nearly impossible to scale up or down if you need more or less room over time, since mall spaces are usually pre-divided into separate stores.
The Edit fixes all of these issues by creating a shared space where startups can benefit from the foot traffic and discovery that malls provide while paying substantially less than a traditional store. The turnkey solution provides everything a startup needs to sell, including fixtures and displays, security, marketing and even background music starting as low as $500 per month, with some shared upside if the startup benefits from the space.
Commitments range from one to six months, which is infinitely more manageable than the traditional 10-year leases you'd usually need to sign to establish a mall presence.
If successful, it's easy to see Simon repurposing space at malls around the country, especially if they can use vacant space that's just sitting around waiting for a tenant. It could also be a way to draw in customers that are bored of seeing the same old stores in their local mall and want a taste of something new.
A trial location was launched last week at Roosevelt Fields, the second largest mall in New York which is about 45 minutes outside NYC. You can see the list of retailers here, but there's a pretty diverse selection spanning the fashion, food and tech industry.