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The 'Most Interesting Retailer In The World' Starts Offering Free Coworking Space

Showfields, 11 Bond St., Manhattan

Coworking seems to be constantly shape-shifting, but its newest form comes with a twist that anyone who still prefers coffee shops can get excited about: This one is free.

Experimental retail concept Showfields has opened the fourth floor of its 15K SF operation in New York as a coworking space that is free for anyone to use, without so much as a fee for WiFi, Glossy reports. The 1K SF space, with a 1,500 SF outdoor terrace attached, has room for about 40 people.

Showfields has been open at 11 Bond St. in the East Village/NoHo area of Lower Manhattan since December as its fourth floor was still under construction. The rest of the space is dedicated to a retail-as-a-service platform, giving startup and online retailers small chunks of square footage on four-month leases to allow them a quick way to connect with potential customers in person.

The idea for putting coworking space in Showfields came from such retailers' desire to have a sense of community, not to entice workers to buy products on the lower floors, founder Tal Zvi Nathanel told Glossy. A café and some space for events also share square footage with retail stands, all as a way to entrench the feeling that customers are coming together over something.

Showfields is hardly the first company to try to bring coworking and retail together. Shopping center landlords increasingly see coworking as a way to ensure foot traffic and attract desirable demographics. Retailers themselves are getting into the act as well.

Office Depot has increasingly leaned on the service to buttress its slumping sales, startups like Spacious temporarily convert unused restaurant space to coworking, and some of WeWork's many initiatives are retail/coworking hybrids.

All of the above concepts involve charging workers in some way or another. Whether Showfields can gain meaningful value out of giving workspace away will be a question that lends credence to its claim as "the most interesting retailer in the world."