When you hear the term, “sharing economy,” you may think of the business model of Uber and AirBNB. However, a recent item from Independent We Stand got us thinking about all the other ways small businesses can participate in economic sharing.

Octane Coffee and the Little Tart Bakeshop in Atlanta have both cut costs in the same way recent college graduates cut costs when they move to the big city and get a low-paying job: They’ve moved in together when expanding to a new location. Retail space sharing has allowed both companies to each have an independent business in a new location at a lower cost. (Oh, and they have a much better resume than any recent college grad.)

So add these to your list of sharing and creative-space trends such as food trucks, co-working, Uber-for-X, pop-up shops, etc.; another way to think about small business sharing (one that dates back to the very first merchant bazaar, no doubt): Co-Retailing or Co-Eatery, whatever you want to call shared retail space.

How co-retailing works

  • A landlord must approve the arrangement.
  • A business owner can sublet part of his/her current space, with the landlord’s approval, or a group of hopeful business owners can seek out and lease a single space together.
  • In some cases, the businesses share everything, from a door to the utility bills; while in other cases, the businesses are able to maintain more independence with separate entrances and individual utility meters.
  • Another form of co-retailing are the types of permanent antique and flea-market-style marketplaces.

The benefits of co-retailing, beyond the savings

  • The ability to share customers (if the shops are complimentary). However, this may not work if the shops are like one co-space arrangement we recall from years ago: A pet groomer and hearing aid store.
  • A chance to expand a business while minimizing risk.

The downsides of co-retailing, despite the savings

  • Retail space-sharing can create many of the same challenges your first post-college roommate did: like cleaning and maintenance responsibilities.
  • Compatibility of business owners can wreck both businesses.

How to Get Started

As one might expect, there’s an Uber-for-X in the retail-sharing marketplace: Storefront. Storefront lets business owners post their sublet opportunities and connects them with other business owners looking to share space. It also provides short-term space opportunities for new and pop-up businesses

Bottom Line

Retail space sharing helps small business owners pool their resources and support each other for shared success. And it works for your customers and your local community, as well.

(via: Independent We Stand)

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