Strolling along the Thames near the Tate Modern last evening, near the Blackfriars Bridge Ticket Office I chanced upon the first d-pod in England. It’s been in existence for less than a week. What fun to discover this retail idea!
In its windows were open white cubes, a little bigger than what you might see in a locker room, each with a sample of a single designer or artist’s products. Simple. Tidy. They didn’t shout at me, a pedestrian, but they caught me—and I’m not a shopper at all (though I’m often on the look-out for traveler-size gifts for family).
I looped back around to check it out. The young woman clerk explained the concept: it’s a shared space for displaying, well, about anything small—jewelry, art works, tea, cards, bags, belts, ceramic pieces, accessories. I immediately bought four wooden postcards by Michael Wallner (who works in acrylic, aluminum, wood, and neon art) because I’m now enchanted in Mail Art. (See my previous post on Mail Art in Santa Fe, NM.)
Then I got to meet the D-Pod space owner, Ken Kanghsu Yu. He’s a friendly young Taiwanese who’s taken the pod idea from Japan and brought it to the UK. “These pods are all over Tokyo,” he said.
I told him how I liked the his little store. “When are you going to bring this to the US? It’s a wonderful idea,” I gushed.
He laughed, “Oh, later this year,” he said, clearly making up the answer on the spot. He confessed, “Really, I’m overwhelmed already with what I’ve taken on.” Then he added, “But I had to do something!” He’s been in England six years and apparently had his challenges with jobs and the economy.
So here’s how this d-pod store works: Ken pays for the small retail space (which is about the size of some people’s walk-in closets) and has lined it white glass-enclosed cubes stacked on one another, all clearly visible. (Actually, he as two “closet” units side by side under the bridge.)
He rents a cube—about 50cm X 50cm X 36cm (or in American parlance–about 20”x 20” x 14”)—to an artist and takes a 6% commission on what’s sold. He hires the clerks or cashiers and pays those expenses. He currently has 25 artists; he wants 70. He gets emails with inquires and instructions every day. It’s not highly profitable right now, but in time–why not?
I have a fair number of artists and craftspeople as friends. I know they have plenty of challenges in marketing. What I appreciate about this d-pod shop-sharing idea is that in a mall or fancy commercial area where retail space could be prohibitive for working artists, this is a reasonably priced option. Part gallery, part etsy, part kiosk…I like it.
And I’d like to see Ken and his d-pod venture become wildly successful!