WeWork doubles down on member-based retailing
WeWork, the office-sharing giant, has branched out into retail with the launch of WeMRKT, a concept featuring products made by its members and sold primarily to its members.
The shops will initially only open in WeWork locations. The first, measuring 80 square feet, opened June 25 at WeWork 205 Hudson in lower Manhattan featuring a number of healthy snacks, as well as office necessities and branded apparel. More openings are expected across WeWork’s 110 offices in the U.S. and the concept could eventually reach its more than 85 international offices.
The company chose the first 10 products featured in the first WeMRKT in a pitch competition in April. Winners were selected based on their creativity, innovation, capability and impact. WeWork will hold competitions for new products quarterly. Winners will have further opportunity for distribution through SnackNation, which curates and delivers better-for-you snacks to offices.
For members selling through WeMRKT, the concept also serves as an incubator to test products. There are no fees for any member selling at WeMrkt.
“The WeMRKT is a great example of WeWork’s commitment to our members’ success,” Julie Rice, chief branding officer at WeWork and co-founder of SoulCycle, told Technically Brooklyn. “As brick-and-mortar retail is disappearing, our WeMRKT’s will offer our members an entirely unique channel of distribution.”
WeMRKT is Ms. Rice’s first project since joining WeWork in November. WeWork said it may explore more ways to sell member products to non-WeWork members.
WeWork’s move into retailing is drawing interest because the company partnered with Rhône Capital to acquire the Lord & Taylor flagship on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. The building’s bottom floor is being rented out for retailing, restaurants and possibly a food hall. Hudson’s Bay, the parent of Lord & Taylor, also reached agreements with WeWork to lease retail space within select locations, including on Queen Street in Toronto, Granville Street in Vancouver and Galeria Kaufhof in Frankfurt.
Earlier this year in partnership with WeWork and LinkedIn, J.Crew hosted a panel discussion series featuring the “next generation of entrepreneurs and goal-getters,” selling items inside some WeWork locations and featuring WeWork members in an ad campaign.
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DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see WeMRKT working best as an incubator for brand start-ups, a community-building tool for WeWork members or as its own retail concept? Does the WeWork model share natural adjacencies that align with retail?