Ross Bailey, founder, Appear Here
1.What is the greatest opportunity for your business?
If you look at what companies like Airbnb and Uber have done to the travel and hospitality sectors, I believe Appear Here has the potential to bring as much disruption to the retail industry. Lease lengths are falling dramatically, and retailers are demanding more flexibility than ever before. Appear Here has the tools to enable this to happen.
What really excites me is that through powering thousands of new ideas, Appear Here is changing cities; making them better places to live. These stores are bringing new experiences to our streets, keeping our high streets in touch with the moment and making our city’s streets more interesting to explore.
Plus this is a global issue; the same inefficiencies exist in every market. Right now Soho in NYC has a 30% vacancy rate and Fifth Avenue 15%. Appear Here is in a position where it can bring about change in some of the biggest retail cities worldwide.
2. What is the biggest challenge to your business?
Renting flexible retail space online is a completely new concept. It just didn’t happen before we launched, so for both landlords, and to a certain extent brands, we’ve got to do a lot of education. The property industry, on the whole, is very traditional and reluctant to change, so there’s still a lot of work to be done to change their attitudes and get them to embrace renting space flexibly and online. Over 80% of demand on Appear Here is unfulfilled because of a lack of space.
3. With the benefit of hindsight what would you have done differently so far?
So many things. I’m learning every day new things about the industry but also as an individual how to build and manage a team. With a small team, you need to achieve what the big companies can do with a fraction of the resource and budget. However, it is possible you just need to have a team who’s prepared to give a little bit more to get there.
I now realise how important it is to make sure you have the right people who match your culture from the start. It helps a lot when it comes to making sure you’re hiring the right people for the job. It doesn’t matter how skilled they are, they need to have the right mentality for your company. Sometimes it’s as simple as hiring the people you’d want to have dinner with.
4. What will the high street look like in a decade?
I don’t think we will talk about retail, I think we will talk more about ideas. Retail is becoming media and therefore the retailer is anyone who has an idea that they want to connect to an audience and create an experience. I think you’ll also see a return to brands just keeping things really simple; a beautifully curated store, filled with great products and run by people with a real passion for what they do. Plus, more independent magazine stores and bakeries. Why? Because they offer experiences that are about more than just convenience. That’s why you see so many people visiting places like Columbia Road Flower Market or farmers’ markets at the weekend.
5. Will mobile devices be the primary sales channel in the future?
Who knows if we will even use mobiles? I think the sales channel will definitely be mobile and online. But I think physical stores will play a big role when people are reaching the point of purchase. Millennials are spending their money on experiences rather than buying products, so the experience will remain key, and the transaction a souvenir of the experience.
6. What other retail/retail-related businesses do you admire?
I think London has some incredible department stores like Liberty and Selfridges, where you can spend hours exploring them. Whether you buy anything or not – they are now playing the role of the editor in a world where you have infinite choice.
I also really admire Topshop. They were the first to become part of our ‘In Residence’ collection, which gives small brands the opportunity to book space inside their flagship store. They really get the importance of making sure you have new and interesting things in-store to keep people coming back. Even when they showcased at London Fashion Week in September, they turned their catwalk into a market, filled with independent brands from Appear Here’s community which guests could shop after the show. It added a whole new layer to the experience. I loved that the staging of the show was real, rather than just being props. It was authentic.
7. If you hadn’t been a retailer/service-provider-to-retail what would you have liked to do?
That’s really tricky, I’m actually pretty obsessed with retail and all the things that come with it, so it’s hard to imagine working anywhere else. I do love the process of coming up with a brand’s identity, so I’d probably be building my own fashion brand.
8. What marks out of 10 do you give yourself so far for achievement?
I’m a perfectionist, so there’s always something that can be improved and I’m pretty hard on myself. We have a long way to go and I always wish things were moving faster, so I think I’d give myself above five right now.
9. Who would you place in the Top 25 Multi-channel/e-commerce Movers & Shakers?
Jose Neves from Farfetch, Chris Morton from Lyst, Jeremy Langmead from Mr Porter, and Meg and Georgina, the founders of Semaine. I’ve enjoyed bouncing ideas with all of them, and they all have incredible visions.