Appear Here – ‘the Airbnb for retail’– eyes big brand budgets with launch of Global Projects team

Appear Here road-maps ambition to land global brand budgets

Appear Here has created a Global Special Projects team to be led by former Cushman & Wakefield director Eva Marie Santiago as it looks to help big brands, with big budgets, orchestrate global experiences through the network of retail spaces on its books.

Appear Here, which has been dubbed the Airbnb of commercial property, allows companies to book retail space to use for as little as a day to several months through its website. It partnered with TfL to transform the empty units in East London’s Old Street (including the men’s toilet) and two years ago secured nearly £5m in funding, which spurred its expansion into Paris and New York.

While many of Appear Here’s clients are start-ups and online companies testing out physical retailing, a burgeoning number are established brands with a global presence. Founder Ross Bailey has argued for some time that harnessing vacant shops or public space for a short-time by these larger companies is falling increasingly into the remit of their marketers, who are viewing it more like a media channel where they can execute experiential stunts.

Take boots brand Hunter, for example, which bought the retail space around Piccadilly Circus’ tube station and plastered it with posters in a bid to drive people to the street level store. Or the curation of Topshop’s London Fashion Week market in East London's Spitalfields , featuring a catwalk surrounded by 40 up-and-coming designers.

Appear Here was behind both projects and is looking to double down on how many of this scale it can execute, including synchronising launches in multiple locations. Its ambition is little surprise, given that it’s seen a 300% year-on-year growth in brands around the world coming to the website.

“[Brands] want to be in multiple cities, whether it’s at the same time or rotating. The idea is to find those opportunities to create a spider’s web and help not only devise the space but a cohesive strategy and vision for them that will integrate with media,” explained Santiago, saying its help is not limited to retail space but also booking event and public spaces and even OOH advertising and brand partnerships.

While on paper it might seem like Appear Here is venturing further into a traditional media or creative agency’s territory, Santiago is clear that the company will not be behind the creative execution.

“We get asked about the execution, but we don’t do [that bit]. A lot of the team have come from agency backgrounds so we’re really aligned to what [brands] want and can recommend good partners,” she said, later adding that around a quarter of the ‘big brands’ come to it directly.

“We understand the real-estate business and are able to provide the opportunity and space, that’s the niche in what we do. Creative agencies still come to us to look for the space to book their idea. That’s one of the strong pipelines for our business.”

Previously director of retail services at Cushman and Wakefield – a commercial property and real estate consultancy – Santiago is well versed in pulling off the kind of high profile activations Appear Here is promising. She was responsible for negotiating the first ever ‘NFL Experience’ in Times Square with the NFL and Cirque du Soleil and has represented a variety of international brands such Live Nation, Mikihouse in Japan, Apostrophe in France and Secret Cinema in the UK.

Also joining the team to support Santiago, are Josh Yentob and Becky Jones who previously headed up markets at Appear Here and ran government campaigns, including Pop up Britain respectively.

Appear Here has grown 153% over the last two years, with the total number of staff now more than 50.

Jennifer Faull

Jen Faull is deputy news editor at The Drum with a remit to cover the latest developments in the retail and FMCG sectors. Based in London, she has interviewed major business figures including top marketers from Mondelez, Unilever, Tesco, and Lidl.

All by Jennifer