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Online gift marketplace tests bricks-and-mortar retail

Online gift marketplace Hardtofind is dipping a toe into the world of bricks-and-mortar retail, with the launch of a monthly market in Moore Park’s Entertainment Quarter in Sydney this month.

The first market will take place on 26 November, with another occurring on 17 December to take advantage of pre-Christmas shopping.

Starting in February 2018, the market will be a regular event on the last Sunday of every month.

“It’s a toe-dip into world of offline commerce to see if there’s a viable business model for us to expand on,” said Hardtofind CEO Erica Stewart.

The online gift marketplace, which features products from a wide range of independent artists and makers, has been expanding year-on-year.

Stewart said sales grew by double-digits last year and she’s looking to achieve the same rapid growth this year.

The idea to hold regular pop-up events came after a successful first run with the format last Christmas.

“Sellers and customers loved it, and we always knew we wanted to do it again,” Stewart said.

Each market will feature different sellers, offering an ever-evolving selection of products.

“It’s a very dynamic shopping experience, not only because it’s an online marketplace come to life, but also because the sellers will change each time,” she said.

This is where e-commerce businesses going offline have to make hard choices, because even by offering a new selection at every market, Hardtofind can never hope to showcase the tens of thousands of products it stocks online.

But Stewart said the markets provide other opportunities to grow the brand.

“Hardtofind was born out of the belief that customers want products that are more thoughtful, special and personal. Through technology, we’ve been able to connect thousands of independent artists and artisans with customers around the world. But what if we could do that offline as well?

“The markets really draw on the idea of community and further our USP, which is about building a community of artisans and being able to meet sellers face-to-face,” she said.

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