Westfield evicts online retailer StyleTread after tenant backlash

Local online shoe retailer StyleTread is remaining tight-lipped about its clash with Westfield, after the start-up’s kiosk was closed at Parramatta following a conflict with existing tenants.

 

Based in Sydney, StyleTread was founded in 2010 by Mark Rowland and Bjorn Behrendt, who used incubation capital from Lakestar, an institutional fund based in Zurich.

 

In May last year, the Nine Entertainment Company invested around $4 million in StyleTread, with the business reportedly valued at $20 million.

 

Then in March, StyleTread raised an impressive $12 million in a Series C funding round, led by Melbourne-based venture capital firm Starfish Ventures.

 

Earlier this year, StyleTread opened a kiosk at Westfield Parramatta in Sydney, describing it as “our way of bringing our online store to you in an exciting and interactive way”.

 

“While here in the kiosk, you can learn how to navigate our easy-to-use site [and] ask questions from our friendly Customer Happiness Ambassador,” StyleTread said on its website.

 

“After visiting us here at the kiosk, you can go home and shop from the convenience of your lounge room 24/7.”

 

However, it’s been confirmed Westfield has evicted StyleTread from its Parramatta store following a backlash from existing tenants. Westfield could not be reached for comment.

 

Mazera Concepts Pty Ltd, who managed the commercial agreement with Westfield, confirmed Westfield made the decision to close the store as it was in conflict with existing tenants.

 

Meanwhile, Rowland said in a statement that even though StyleTread’s time at Westfield Parramatta was short-lived, it was very beneficial to the company.

 

“In just under three weeks, StyleTread reached 400,000 potential new customers,” he said.

 

“StyleTread will continue to explore new and innovative territory in the company’s efforts to bring the convenience of shopping for shoes at StyleTread to all Australians.”

 

Kiosk sites are becoming increasingly popular in major shopping centres, particularly as retail rents continue to rise.

 

But the StyleTread example suggests kiosk operators might not receive a warm welcome from their neighbouring tenants, who typically pay more rent.

 

In May, StartupSmart spoke to Luke Manning, business development manager at hairdressing franchise Just Cuts, after it unveiled a haircutting kiosk at Westfield Doncaster in Melbourne.

 

“A lot of people are looking to have a business with less risk. The kiosk is transferable – that’s the beauty of the kiosk,” Manning said.

 

However, Manning said setting up a kiosk within a shopping centre is more difficult than opening a normal site.

 

“Because you’re in a high foot traffic area, it’s very regulated on what signage you can use, and what materials,” he said.

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