Jay Norris, a former retail real estate broker, got the idea for Guesst, a store-sharing technology platform, when he realized his clients weren’t looking to open more units, but rather, shrink existing ones.
Norris said Guesst’s pop-shares allow brands to sell their products at fully staffed and merchandised retail locations for a fraction of the cost of a pop-up shop.
Retailers can benefit from a new revenue stream without the risk and expense of holding inventory since brands provide products on consignment.
“I have a lot of tenants, but none of them can afford to expand,” said Norris, founder and chief executive officer of Guesst. “I did a bunch of pop-share deals. It helps retailers meet the needs of their fixed costs. I decided it had to be automated and a marketplace, where retailers can find complementary brands.”
Retail roommates is another way to describe Guesst’s matchmaking technology, which supports clients such as Steven Alan and John Hardy on the retail side, and brands such as Public School. “We can help you curate in a different way,” Norris said. “Why don’t you uncover emerging brands. We can almost give spaces new life with our model and new fresh compelling brands.”
Alan, who is an investor and adviser to Guesst, at one time counted more than 20 stores in the U.S. He operates a unit on Manhattan’s Upper West Side in addition to a flagship in TriBeCa, where Coyuchi, Page Sargisson, Haley K fine jewelry, Stutterheim, Graf Luntz and the Lost Explorer are dropping in. Other like-minded beauty, accessories, jewelry and home-decor brands can have a presence at Steven Alan for $500 to $2,500 a month.
John Hardy, which in May will open a unit at the Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, is looking for furniture, home decor, gifts and garden products that will complement its store experience. A licensing fee of $5,000 a month for high-visibility space includes signage, product education and sales staff. Brands keep 85 percent of their sales, processed by Guesst’s point of sales system and receive the data for their transactions, including browsing insights and captured e-mail addresses of new customers.
Gas Bijoux, a St. Tropez jewelry brand with stores on Madison Avenue, Columbus Avenue and NoLIta, hosts brands through Guesst’s automated consignment model. Gas Bijoux wants a presence in the Hamptons this summer, but not the expense of operating a store or pop-up shop, so it plans to be a guest of other retailers.
“You’re seeing a lot of consignment models. We enable the retailers to survive and explore and test new markets. With 18 retail hosts and hundreds of brands on the platform, we know what’s happening at each location,” Norris said. “We’re going to scale, but we’re still going to have the human touch.”
“This is the ultimate match-making digital tool for retail and fashion,” said Andrea Abrams, founder of Abrams Global and a strategic adviser to Guesst. “This matches stores with product in a very safe environment where both sides feel protected.”
Guesst in May is partnering with Public School to launch a 4,500-square-foot interactive Public School Loft in SoHo, where designers Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne plan to fill the space with fashion, home products, electronics and wine and spirits, among other things. “They want to curate an urban lifestyle activation,” Norris said. “They’re creating their own version of a department store. Guesst will facilitate recruiting brands on a rotating basis for the loft.”
“The Loft will be a destination for consumers to experience and interact with a variety of compatible luxury brands under one roof,” said Alan Mak, managing partner of Public School and head of retail experience for Guesst. “We believe fashion is more than just the clothes people wear. We’re looking forward to partnering with like-minded brands to build out a multidimensional space where consumers and tastemakers will seek out what’s new and what’s next.”