Pop Up Market: Empower or Weaken Creative Industries?


This essay is based on my personal observation as an entrepreneur and consumer. I also discussed this matter with my fellow entrepreneurs and communities. I am not sullying specific party, but this is the fact that is happening at this time.

Historically Pasar Seni ITB can be considered as the first curated market in Indonesia. The founders, AD Pirous and But Muchtar were inspired by New York Art Fair and established Pasar Seni ITB in 1972. In 1980s the students and alumni of Faculty of Art and Design ITB started to open booths which sold art, craft, and design goods. The response was satisfying so it expanded to accommodate wider range of sellers. Although Pasar Seni ITB is the pioneer, curated market trend was popularized by Anton Wirjono, Cynthia Wirjono, and Chriss Kerrigan who initiated Brightspot Market in 2009 as “the curated market of all things cool.” The first event gained a tremendous success and followed by the opening of The Goods Dept store in 2010. Shortly after that curated market trend grows in Indonesia, especially in big cities such as Jakarta, Bandung, and Surabaya.

Brightspot Market
(Source: www.agatawijaya.blogspot.com)

If you have not joined or visited any curated market yet, I will try to describe it. Firstly brands or companies have to send their product catalogue to the curator team. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines curator as one who has the care and superintendence of something; especially one in charge of a museum, zoo, or other place of exhibit. After that selected brands will have a chance to exhibit and sell their products in a small booth-usually between 1x3 and 3x3 size-and pay the price. Visual merchandising and decoration are also essential for this kind of event since it is not only about the products, but also branding. Usually it is held on weekend at shopping mall to attract more buyers.

There is also other type of community based curated market which appeals more niche market, for example: Crafty Days Tobucil, Pasar Indoestri, and Kopi Keliling Arts & Crafts Festival. It is simpler; the committees merely provide tables and chairs for selected brands. The focus is on the products and the process behind it, not decorations and other additional stuffs. This system is often applied in other countries because it is more appropriate with their mission to empower local makers.

Crafty Days Tobucil
(Source: www.politewardrobe.wordpress.com)

Nowadays curated market transforms into pop up market. Some pop up markets put aside former mission and exploit this trend primarily to generate money. When something becomes main stream, it could not be denied that the quality will eventually decrease. These pop up markets do not even have curator team, the most important thing is the brands are willing to pay the price. The cheapest price for the smallest booth varies from IDR 4 to 7 million. The price keeps getting higher every year, therefore it implies stronger economic motive.

To my way of thinking the quality decreases because of the content. No curator means any ‘local brands’ are eligible to participate. Some of them are manufacturer scale brands and there is no novelty in their products. You can see several booths with identical products like canvas tote bag, jogger pants, or Dr. Martens shoes lookalike. Moreover without curator we could not be aware if it is genuine local brands or local entrepreneurs who act as re-sellers for imported products. There are some cases when the brands’ owners simply design new logo and market the products, but they are not involved in the production process.

The implication is competitiveness is not valued by quality and creativity, but it comes back to price. Unfortunately if we consider price as decisive factor there is no urgency to buy local brands. Cheap manufactured made-in-China products will always be far more appealing. It is a pity that when people started to be aware of the importance of buying local brands, they got distracted again.

Besides cheap prices, unreasonable discount is another threat for emerging brands. To illustrate there are 2 discount mechanisms. First is dead stock discount; it is for last season products or less desirable returned products from stores so there will be no leftover. Second is promotional discount; the discount price is taken from marketing and promotional budget. At least the price still covers production price (as a product design alumnus I learned about production price a lot). In this case there are some brands that offer extremely cheap price. Yes, it is their right, but it is not fair since we have to maintain stable price. What upset me the most is a friend told me that some booths put paper discount tags with manual writings on it hence there is no difference between this and traditional market’s booths.

Despite this fact, some brands are bold enough to participate in pop up markets particularly for brand awareness purpose. Revenue is not their prime concern as long as they can interact with people and make a statement that they are worth to be reckoned. Also this event is an opportunity to meet public figure, media, and social media celebrity who can act as endorser.

Between 2010 and 2015, some brands or companies have developed from micro enterprises to small medium enterprises (SME). Usually if company displays reassuring growth speed, it would be acquired by investors and head towards the next phase. It is a pleasant thing and it proves that the pop up market’s mission is accomplished. My suggestion to the founders is to alter their focus from those brands to others who still struggle. Find other auspicious small brands and give them a chance to grow. That is what curated markets do. For me this is the ultimate success benchmark, not just capital turnover.

All in all this post is a proposition to revive the essence of curated or pop up markets and to emphasize that curators’ role is necessary. If you have any experience as an entrepreneurs or consumers do not hesitate to share your perspective on the comment box below.

You Might Also Like