ETHER is a new co-retail concept by Cloud Spaces, introduced by the UAE’s leading co-worker specialist brand. Aware that their ideas and cutting-edge concepts have worked so well for the coworking and office space market, they’ve taken a look at how retail outlets brand themselves in what is an increasingly competitive marketplace. And they’ve come up with a pretty good idea, too.
ETHER is a unique and dynamic platform for lifestyle brands. It provides a ‘one-stop-shop’ for customers looking for something a little out of the ordinary, a little more exciting, and a little more individual. The ETHER shopper doesn’t want mundane, they want marvellous. So ETHER brings all of these ideas under one roof and presents them in a way that appeals to both the impulse shopper and the considerate consumer looking for something specific.
The trouble is, while there are high street platforms already out there, they tend to be congested with the usual big-name retailers. This in turn crowds out the smaller independent SMEs and entrepreneurs, limiting their exposure to potential customers. Think of it as ‘retail SEO’, where the major players get the top spots and smaller, less well-known businesses struggle to fight for space because they simply cannot compete with the marketing departments of the big boys.
ETHER aims to address this imbalance. A colourful, quirky and bold hub that celebrates creativity, ETHER embraces both emerging and established brands, whether they’re a single artisan or a creative collective. The principle is the same – delivering an engaging and beguiling environment that encourages shoppers to take up the fine art of ‘Browsing’ again.
ETHER has been designed by the UAE’s leading real estate developer and manager, Aldar, who originally came up with the idea of Cloud Spaces. The motivation behind Cloud Spaces is to create an inspiring office space that empowers and enables local SMEs and entrepreneurs.
It’s worked remarkably well, and following on from the initial success of Cloud Spaces, Aldar went on to develop ETHER at Yas Mall, Abu Dhabi.
The driving factor in both ETHER and Cloud Spaces is the sense of community. By providing a cutting-edge, stylish and welcoming co-retail space, ETHER is supporting both local artisans and international brands who are ‘ready to go retail’. While many businesses are moving to a purely online presence, ETHER promotes the idea of ‘real world’ shopping, where buyers have a chance to see and feel the products.
Technology hasn’t been completely alienated within the ETHER concept, though, as both ETHER and the sellers who use it recognise that online and virtual marketing is all part of the retail process. The key is to make retail accessible and, more importantly, to make it fun, exciting and inclusive.
As a result, ETHER is supporting the community, especially homegrown artisans and entrepreneurs who want to give their customers an interactive experience that makes them fall in love with shopping all over again.
Full of fashionable boutiques that offer head-turning looks and unique styles, shoppers will find everything from athleisure to Emirati fashion, art and sculpture. There are hand-crafted products made using heritage crafts handed down through generations. There are skincare products and wellness products from UAE brands. And there are plenty of food and beverage brands to tempt shoppers to take a little more time and really embrace the ETHER experience.
Spanning categories as diverse as technology, fashion, home, art, lifestyle, NFT, beauty, accessories and food, shoppers will discover new and exciting products and brands, many of which have never been retailed in the UAE before.
Rather than competing for individual, highly sought-after mall spaces, ETHER offers a simplified co-rental space that embraces multiple brands and retailers. Tenants benefit from 0% capital costs, so it makes it much more affordable for small businesses and individuals to get that premium spot in a prestigious mall location.
There are also no extra expenses for staffing, utilities or stationery. Additionally, young businesses can make good use of the additional benefits such as operational, marketing and logistical infrastructures that would otherwise eat into those bottom-line figures.
A fully digitised booking platform makes it easy for entrepreneurs to get access to the vibrant and booming Abu Dhabi market instantly. Put simply, it takes all the stress and worry of setting up a physical location without support, making it more likely that new SMEs have a greater chance of success.
Sellers can choose a one, three, six or 12-month contract, as well as elegant lots that range from 4m² to a whopping 56m². Retailers can choose a simple shelf display, or go with a three-walled boutique for maximum wow-factor impact. For businesses looking to make their debut in the Abu Dhabi market, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime.
ETHER isn’t just a place where you go to buy things. The community focus runs deep through its DNA, so Aldar has also included an Events and Performance area, bringing real entertainment back into the retail space. ETHER is a dynamic meeting place for creatives, artists and go-getters, and an incubator for revolutionary ideas.
Looking to the future, the plan is to expand the ETHER concept to other locations so that more innovators, artisans and creatives can be showcased in a nurturing environment. The intention is to grow the ETHER concept across the UAE and eventually overseas. Tying in with the real-world ETHER will be a digital platform that allows partner brands to link their online presence with their physical one too.
With more outlets, there will be greater opportunities for even more artisans and SMEs to become part of the ETHER story. This is an easily scalable concept that could be quickly rolled out at other locations. It could also revive the flagging fortunes of small, independent traders and fightback against the online giants that have been squeezing out the little guys for years.
ETHER is the future of community-focused retail, and it’s here to stay.