I’m listening to William Gibson
talking to Cory Doctorow about innovation, the cost of retail space,
and the limiting opportunities that exist for micro-brands to reach
street-level audiences in our ever more expensive cities.
Their point is of course valid. I know only too well how the cost of
retail space can force bankruptcy on an otherwise healthy business. But
I’m surprised that neither Gibson or Doctorow brought up the nearly zero
cost involved with setting up a storefront online.
Yes, I can already hear you saying “but online is no match for street
level retail when it comes to selling local micro-brands”. But frankly,
that’s outdated thinking. Instead, I’d ask “why are you still thinking
of geographic markets when you could be thinking of social markets?”
I’m working on a couple of fashion related projects at the moment
(three of them actually), and as such have been immersed in the world of
online style for a couple of months. During this period, my mind has
been blown time and again by sites like stylehive.com, notcot.org, etsy.com
and others. These sites allow the tiniest of micro-brands to flourish.
The pyramidical model of social networks allows these micro-brands to
reach markets far faster and for far lest cost than by setting up a
retail storefront. If, as a micro-brand owner, you can get a social
influencer to buy and recommend your product, you have instant
legitimacy within a wider market.
So it isn’t true that skyrocketing retail costs are killing the
micro-brand. It is true that the skill set needed to succeed at small
level retail has changed dramatically. But that’s a story for another