About twenty new and original stores have opened at the Stadsfeestzaal on the Meir in Antwerp. This includes a store that sells the cap and brim of the hat separately, so you can combine the hat and more clothes, and a store that offers sportswear that dries really fast and you can even take it to a restaurant.
Shopkeepers have two things in common: they are rich in ideas and poor in money. This is why the Retailhub knowledge center has rented four retail properties in Stadsfeestzaal. Retailhub allows these large premises to be used simultaneously by about twenty novice traders who want to try out an innovative store concept on the general public. They do not have to pay the rent, but they turn over a portion of the proceeds from the sale to Retailhub. A rigorous evaluation is followed three months later. If the store is successful, the owners can search for their own retail space or point of sale. If the store doesn’t work, the story ends.
“We call this project Foster Labs,” said Jorg Snoeck, general manager of Retailhub. “They are labs, and ‘foster’ means something like ‘cherish’ and ‘love to see.’ We choose start-up entrepreneurs because we believe in their concept and we help them make the concept a success. We help them with free advice and help them think about how their venture will be successful.”
It is no coincidence that this project is being built after the deepest troughs of the Corona crisis. “Partly because of Corona, there is a risk that there are a lot of vacancies on the shopping streets,” says Jorg Snoeck. This reduces the value of real estate in the shopping street as well as the value of apartments in the neighborhood as well. We want to solve this problem with Foster Labs. Now we do it at Stadsfeestzaal, but we will also help start new stores elsewhere in the city. And at a later stage, we want to expand this project to other cities.”
One of the new Foster Labs stores in Stadsfeestzaal is Shadow Collectors. “I sell tops and brims of hats, so customers can put together their very own woolen hat,” says Sanne Claessens (23). “I love wearing hats myself and need a lot of them to get all my clothes on. Since you can buy the top and brim of the hat separately, there are many color combinations possible. All hats are made in Holland.”
Sportswear that allows the sun to enter
Samira Fares (42 years old) is also part of Foster Labs with her shop Nordays. “We sell multifunctional sportswear that lets in the sun and can be used, for example, for walking or doing yoga,” Samira says. “You can also swim in it. The clothes dry in five minutes when the temperature reaches thirty degrees. There are microscopic holes in the clothes that ensure that very little water collects. The yarns of the sportswear also block UV rays, so they hardly burn in those clothes. You can also Going to a restaurant in these clothes after working out. All of our clothes are made in Belgium.”
Art by people with hidden talents
Foster Labs is also making room for art. Luckie displays artwork for people with disabilities at the Stadsfeestzaal. “We prefer to call them people with hidden talents,” says Hermann Toch, one of the initiators of Luckie. “People can also buy those artworks, if the artist wants to. In a few months, we will also open a Luckie Greens & Beans store in Leopold de Waelplaats, where people with disabilities will sell coffee and plants, among other things.”