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How ultra-short leases are revitalising Melbourne’s retail scene

By Orana Durney-Benson
09 November 2023 | 10 minute read
2XU Daily Blooms reb lkmuah

It’s goodbye shopfronts, hello pop-up pods, for a Victorian company that aims to revolutionise retail.

Vacancies are on the rise in Australia’s traditional shopping strips, but one Melbourne-based entrepreneur believes that micro-rentals might help bring these tired high streets back to life.

Monty Hanger launched Hawker Spaces in November 2022 to help bridge the gap between online and face-to-face retail.

Each Hawker Space is a small, empty “retail and activation space” that clients can customise online with their choice of furniture and layout. The company provides clothing racks, mannequins, digital projectors, wall-integrated digital screens, stock rooms, bathrooms, WiFi and legalities – and the client just has to bring the products.

Two Hawker Spaces are currently up and running in Melbourne, one in South Yarra and another in Fitzroy.

According to Mr Hanger, the company’s “technology and flexible licence solutions will fill the void that successful e-commerce brands need”.

“Hawker Spaces provides a place where not only can retailers showcase their products, but brands can create activation spaces for anything from product launches to bespoke events, without being weighted down by the plethora of expenses that come hand in hand with long-term leases,” stated Mr Hanger.

He came up with the concept last year as a way to address the growing vacancies in Melbourne’s most popular retail hotspots.

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So far, he believes the experiment has been a success, with significant brand names – including Poppy King, Virgin and 7-Eleven – taking up bookings.

In-built research technology is another feature that Hawker Spaces believes is drawing clients.

“There’s an analytics people counter and heat map technology to provide invaluable insights into customer behaviour, allowing clients to make data-driven decisions,” stated Mr Hanger.

According to the company, Hawker Spaces can also be used for product launches, company events, property display suites and fitness studios.

Guy Cooper was the head of wholesale at one of Hawker Spaces’ former clients, sportwear retailer 2XU. Mr Cooper reported that 2XU had experienced “really healthy traffic numbers” during their time at the South Yarra site, with sales 108 per cent above target.

The company hinted at future openings in the works, with hopes of capitalising on their latest launch: a new subscription model.

With some clients, including 2XU, booking in for a second or third time, Hawker Spaces believes that a regular booking slot might be welcomed by regulars.

“The feedback from clients is they love the idea of subscribing to a set number of weeks across our network of spaces, and the more spaces we open the more attractive the subscription model becomes,” said Mr Hanger.

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