Mirvac shopping centres is expanding an experiment with a new retail model that reduces barriers of entry into bricks-and-mortar spaces for small businesses ahead of Christmas.
The WeShow model — which Mirvac first trialled at East Village in Sydney — will open at three locations this November: Birkenhead Point Outlet Centre in Sydney, Brisbane’s Toombul Shopping Centre and Kawana Shoppingworld on the Sunshine Coast.
WeShow uses a flexible rental structure for short-term leases, allowing businesses to negotiate a fee based on either a fixed rate or percentage of sales. Businesses don’t need to sign up to a term lease or have a bank guarantee.
The WeShow model also gives small businesses access to the shopping centre’s network of designers, marketers and builders, helping them create a temporary shop fitting free of charge that can be assembled within 72 hours.
Sydney-based bag brand Hills & West participated in the initial pilot at East Village in December, using the opportunity to test having a bricks-and-mortar retail space.
Aisha Hillary-Morgan, founder of Hills & West, says WeShow was the ideal model for her to bring her e-commerce business into a physical store.
“It was such a good space for me because it gave me the confidence to step into a space as unknown as bricks-and-mortar and it was very flexible,” Hillary-Morgan tells SmartCompany.
Hillary-Morgan says Mirvac worked collaboratively with her during the pilot, allowing her to create a physical space that suited her products, which include Australian handmade bags, accessories and interiors.
She used the retail space to showcase her own luxury bags as well as products from other Australian brands, which grew from six brands to 20 in her time at East Village.
“It was really an amazing space to help people discover Australian products, and I think the timing was phenomenal because everyone was looking for something new,” she says.
Hills & West’s 12-week presence in East Village saw the business record a 300% increase in sales and a 26% profit increase when comparing the same period in the previous year, and Hillary-Morgan is now in discussions with Mirvac about having a more permanent store.
Kelly Miller, general manager retail at Mirvac, expects the expanded program to help small businesses overcome the challenges involved in opening a physical retail store, particularly during disrupted trading periods.
WeShow also covers the cost of fitting out the pop-up store, removing the investment a small business would normally have to make to fit out a shop. The average fit out investment for a 100 square metre fashion store can range between $300,000 to $400,000.
“WeShow came out of the fact that we wanted to continue to bring in new talent and new brands into our business and partner with them,” Miller tells SmartCompany.
Miller says the model allows small businesses to set up a shop without entering a long-term lease or having to build a shop fitting on their own.
“We really wanted to use all of our partners in design and marketing and bring these people together to create a new concept for the future of retail,” she says.
Following the success of the pilot, the Small Business Association of Australia (SBAA) partnered with Mirvac to support and endorse the program.
Anne Nalder, chief executive and founder SBAA, said she was proud to work with Mirvac and help the centres remove barriers to entry for traditional retail.
“Our mission at the Small Business Association is to ensure Australian SMEs have equitable access to programs, services, technology, and support to be successful in the global economy,” she said.
“WeShow celebrates this vision and gives small business an unprecedented platform for success.”