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Mix and match

Global [RETAIL]

Both small-scale entrepreneurs and big-name retailers are increasingly seeing the virtue of setting up in temporary spaces. Established companies testing new locations and newcomers looking to introduce their brand and products for the first time see this as a relatively risk-free opportunity requiring next to no initial capital. And now there are a number of start-ups around the world catering to these retail explorers.

Online platforms such as Storefront in the US, Appear Here in the UK and the Dutch company Spacified connect landlords with empty retail spaces and those looking for a temporary set-up. “There is a whole spectrum of entrepreneurs to cater to,” says Storefront co-founder Erik Eliason in San Francisco. “Some see two days at a farmers’ market to sell homemade honey as a sufficient market test; another brand might test for a year.”

Etsy, the online marketplace for hand-made goods, is on the larger end of this spectrum and has used Storefront to help find venues for a series of pop-up shops (pictured, above and bottom right) for its sellers. Storefront has worked with more than 20,000 brands and currently serves about 1,300 shops and art spaces such as The Hole Gallery in New York (pictured, top right). “Stores are becoming more about the experience of shopping,” says Eliason.

Three retail-space markets:

Appear Here, UK Matches spaces and businesses, and provides business owners with city guides.

Spacemarket, Australia Places an emphasis on urban regeneration.

Spacified, Netherlands Offers a marketplace for rentals in retail, plus office and event spaces.

Home run

UK [FASHION]

Surviving as a UK-owned shoe-manufacturer in a market saturated with cheaper Chinese products isn’t easy. But Norman Walsh Footwear is a model to follow. Established in 1961, Walsh has a history of making footwear for professional athletes but branched out into fashion in 1999.

The company is not only wholly UK-owned but also designs and manufactures all its trainers in Britain. Managing director Jon Crompton is confident that the brand’s success relies on sticking to its homegrown values. “Our products are made in England and we use materials sourced as locally as possible,” he says.

Honey, I’m home

China [FOOD]

As the health-food industry expands in China, one product has become particularly prized among the super-wealthy: New Zealand-made Manuka honey. From virtually nothing in 2008, Chinese imports of New Zealand honey reached nearly 1,500 tonnes in 2014, putting China level with Hong Kong as the world’s second-largest market (just behind the UK).

Producers now have to keep up with demand. Manuka Health opened New Zealand’s largest honey-processing facility in November, allowing it to triple production. The country’s leading honey association has also invested in testing facilities in New Zealand and China to counter a wave of fake products with a special certification. According to the association’s general manager John Rawcliffe, Chinese investors are showing serious interest in New Zealand Manuka producers.

Open all aisles

Canada [RETAIL]

The onward march of low-cost retailers such as Walmart and Costco and the steady performance of Whole Foods at the top end of the market have forced Canada’s most recognisable grocery brands to redefine the middle ground. Now they’re battling for their slice of the sector by opening cafés and overhauling interiors. Loblaws has set aside cad$1.2bn (€875m) to refurbish 100 outlets and open several superstores, while its rival Sobeys is sharpening its premium offering. “They’ve got to revitalise those banners,” says Kevin Greer, a retail analyst based in Ontario. “They’re stuck in the middle.”

Flight ready

Japan [AIR TRAVEL]

Later in May, if all goes to plan, Mitsubishi Aircraft will complete the first flight of its Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ), Japan’s first domestically made commercial plane in half a century. For the company, and the country’s aircraft industry, it is the end of a long wait on the runway.

Mitsubishi won’t start meeting the 335 orders for its small passenger plane received so far until 2017. But a demonstration of MRJ’s flight-readiness will counter scepticism – fuelled by repeated delays – about Mitsubishi’s ability to go from producing parts for Boeing planes and US military jets to designing and building an aircraft on its own.

This comes as the HondaJet, a small business plane made by Honda Aircraft Co (a division of Japanese automaker Honda Motor), is expected to be approved for sale by aviation authorities in the US. The MRJ’s flight, on the eve of the Paris Airshow in June, might also help Mitsubishi land more orders in a regional jet market that is currently dominated by Canada’s Bombardier Aerospace and Brazil’s Embraer. By 2018, Mitsubishi wants orders for another 600 planes.

The MRJ’s long-term impact on Japan’s aircraft sector is hard to overstate. Small planes are made of about one million parts. Though the mrj is assembled in Japan, only a third of its parts are made in the country. More domestic suppliers would mean more jobs and a healthier economy at home.

“Our aircraft industry is worth just ¥1.5trn [€11.5bn],” says economist Yasuo Unakami, of Japan Finance Corp in Tokyo. “But it could double or triple in size over the next 20 years. Not many industries here have that kind of potential so there are a lot of expectations surrounding this plane.”

Fruitful endeavour

Haiti [FASHION]

Belgian native Lucie Cincinatis (pictured) gave up her job as a Wall Street financier and moved to Haiti to set up Jacmel & Co in April 2014. During a visit to the old colonial French town of Jacmel, Cincinatis came across the technique of fashioning bags out of the calabash, a rounded green fruit that grows on the tropical island. Jacmel & Co employs a small team of five artisans who transform these fruits into bags that are sold in New York, San Francisco and Paris. Every step of the production process involves the Jacmel community, from the artisans to the leather sourced from tanneries.

Capitol gains

Singapore [WORKSPACE]

A former 1920s biscuit factory on Keong Saik Road in central Singapore has been given a new lease of life as a home for some of the country’s latest start-ups. The Working Capitol is a three-floor shared workspace with capacity for 300 people, spearheaded by Ben Gattie and YC Teo (pictured, in middle and on right), directors of local property developer The Bamboo Group, along with Gattie’s sister Saranta (pictured, on left).

Homegrown architecture firm Farm and interior design company Takenouchi Webb were responsible for the fit-out. In addition to a café and four restaurants there is a shared pantry, and skylights to maximise natural light. But Gattie is keen to stress that a sense of community is more important than the design: “Anybody can build a beautiful space but it’s the people and interactions they share that will eventually hold meaning.” theworkingcapitol.com

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