In Kickstarter-mad Singapore, a retail chain sells only products created with help from the crowdfunding site.
The walls between online and physical retail are eroding. In the US, e-commerce giant Amazon has¬†brick-and-mortar bookstores, while¬†Alibaba has its Hema grocery stores in China. Now, a group of Singaporean entrepreneurs is opening stores where consumers can touch, feel and buy products funded via¬†Kickstarter, the US-based crowdfunding site.
The store, called We the People,¬†does not have a formal relationship with Kickstarter and instead works directly with product brands.
“For a lot of the creators, this is their first time in Asia,” said Ryan Sim, who started We the People with three friends. “We don’t just sell for the sake of selling, we prescribe products and try to help build brands.”
Sim, 28, used Kickstarter in 2013 to crowdfund a slim wallet under the brand Kisetsu. At craft markets, he noticed that when he added a sign saying the product was funded with Kickstarter, sales doubled. He also noticed that Singapore often ranks top among Asian countries for the number of Kickstarter backers, along with Hong Kong.
Products tend to fall into three categories: travel, home and lifestyle. The biggest seller is the Mogics Power Bagel, a ring-shaped travel adapter and power strip. Other hot items are anti-theft backpacks called Bobby, magnetic notes¬†that stick to surfaces with a static charge, and an origami-style stand that converts laptops into a standing desk called Levit8.
Some of the products are also available on e-commerce sites such as Amazon, Lazada and 11street. However, at We the People, each product is displayed with a sign saying how much the creators hoped to raise on Kickstarter, how much they actually raised, and the number of people who pledged funds. The effect is a sort of collective recommendation by people who literally put their money where their mouths were. The team also tests the products and offers warranties.
Since the first We the People store opened in the Orchard Central mall a year ago, three more stores and three pop-ups have opened across the island state. Next month, We the People¬†is opening at five sites in Gothenburg, Sweden, inside outlets of Hobbex, a chain of hobby stores. A store in a hotel lobby on Jeju Island, South Korea is next.
The success of We the People is a¬†rare bright spot in Singapore’s ailing retail scene. Orchard Road used to be one the most popular shopping destinations in Asia, but has been hurt by traffic congestion and the shift to online shopping. A special building to nurture and showcase home-grown brands, called Design Orchard, will open late next year in the hopes of rejuvenating the street.
We the People is also a small manifestation of the wider trend towards using an offline channel to complement online sales, and reflects the increasing decentralization of commerce. Both in Singapore and outside, We the People’s success¬†is a testament to the appeal of crowdfunded brands‚Äďon or offline.