WeWork is rolling out a retail format, called WeMrkt, selling food, healthy snacks, office supplies, flowers, phone chargers, even a smattering of apparel.
Tenants (referred to as “members”) in WeWork’s shared office facilities can all shop WeMrkt, and in many cases, they will be supplying WeMrkts with their products.
“The vision is to carry products by our members and for our members. It’s a physical embodiment of the idea that our members are really creating products that are changing cities and lives,” said Julie Rice, chief branding officer of WeWork. “WeMrkt is a very natural extension of what we do.”
For Rice, the cofounder of SoulCycle, WeMrkt is her first project since joining WeWork in November. She said all 110 WeWork facilities in the U.S. will be retrofitted with WeMrkts, and eventually the plan is to open WeMrkts in overseas WeWork facilities. WeWork has 260 facilities globally.
She considers WeMrkt a “reimagined” version of WeWork’s original Honesty Market with a focus on healthy offerings and what members requested.
“All we had before were snacks,” said Rice. “We definitely expanded the categories of products we have and thought about what people need during their day. It’s a real amenity to our members. There’s fresh food for lunch. The snacks are healthier. There’s no more Coke or Diet Coke. There are also office supplies, birthday cards, fresh flowers, phone chargers and magazines, and we are focusing on stocking our shelves with products from our members.…This is a great perk for our members. There is no fee for any member selling at WeMrkt. Ultimately, we are trying to become a distribution platform for our members as well as an incubator.”
WeWork’s foray into retail continues to generate interest, particularly since Hudson’s Bay Co. is selling its Lord & Taylor flagship on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan for $850 million to WeWork Property Advisors, a venture between WeWork and Rhône Capital, which agreed to make a $500 million equity investment in HBC. The entire L&T flagship will shut down by early next year. The deal with WeWork is expected to be completed later this year. WeWork is expected to create a new complex on the lower levels that could include retail, food and beverage, possibly a food hall, but has yet to comment on the plan. WeWork will also take space at certain other HBC retail properties, including two floors at the Hudson’s Bay flagship on Queen Street in Toronto.
The first WeMrkt, an 80-square-foot space, opened Wednesday at the WeWork facility at 205 Hudson Street near Canal Street in lower Manhattan. WeMrkts will range from 20 square feet to 100 square feet, and there will be at least one WeMrkt per WeWork facility. At 205 Hudson, the WeMrkt is on the seventh floor, though in different locations it could be on different floors. “We are playing around with different models,” said Rice. “Every building is different.”
Apparel sold at WeMrkt is being designed by WeWork’s arts and graphics team. Five to 10 sku’s will be sold. Rice characterized the apparel as basics, including sweatshirts, caps and T-shirts. Each item will have the word “We” written on it to reflect, as Rice said, “our overarching message about being a collective and what people can do when they collaborate and work together.”
Each quarter, WeWork is hosting a “pitch night” for member companies to compete to have their products carried in the WeMrkt. The first pitch night was in April, where nearly 20 members presented their products to a panel of judges who selected winners based on creativity, innovation, capability and impact.
“WeWork is a community fueled by the entrepreneurial spirit, which is to say we’re so passionate about what we do that we forget to eat balanced meals, or we forget to eat, period,” said Nicole Centeno, founder and chief executive officer of Splendid Spoon, a plant-based meal-delivery plan and among the 10 members chosen to be sold at WeMrkt. “Splendid Spoon meals are designed to solve this problem so the WeMrkt is a superexciting opportunity for us.”
“We’re excited for Misfit to be part of the WeMrkt because WeWork has joined our fight against food waste in a lot of ways: naming us finalists in last year’s Creator Awards in D.C., providing us offices in two cities, buying kegs of our juice in D.C., and now highlighting our work in the WeMrkt,” said Phil Wong, cofounder of Misfit Juicery, which produces juice from food waste. “From our beginnings in a college kitchen, we’ve built Misfit on a thousand acts of generosity from friends, family and classmates. The WeWork community has been a huge extension of that.” Misfit competed at the first WeWork “creator awards” in Washington, D.C. in March 2017. While Misfit didn’t receive an official Creator Award, they received a complimentary, yearlong WeWork membership and will be a part of the first WeMrkt at 205 Hudson.
The other winning member companies were: Icelandic Provisions producing traditional Icelandic skyr in North America; Barnana, which sells healthy, organic snacks like plantain chips; Lebby Snacks, which are made with chickpeas, as well as Puku for chargers and earphones; Honeydrop Lemonade which is gluten- and GMO-free; Hydrant hydration drinks, and Super Coffee organic Colombia coffee.