Master Class

3 Lessons on the Future of Retail from the Co-Founders of ThisOpenSpace


Written by Chris Metler

Retail is evolving. To keep pace with the industry’s round-the-clock transformation, merchants are paying careful attention to trends so they don’t get left behind, while others are making big strides to continuously adapt. Then, there are newcomers like thisopenspace, which offers a fresh and innovative way for brands to sell in real life on flexible terms, without the risks of traditional retail.


Adam Bent and Yashar Nejati, co-founders of thisopenspace


An online marketplace connecting people to a brick-and-mortar space so that they can bring their ideas to the world, thisopenspace matches owners with tenants, providing them instant access to retail, event, production and work areas for short-term rental. If the concept sounds familiar, it’s because you’ve probably read about thisopenspace lately — their slumber-themed Toronto pop-up, The Sleepover, has been garnering all sorts of favourable Canadian press.

So, who better than company co-founders Yashar Nejati and Adam Bent — who’ve also made thisopenspace available across New York, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Montreal and Ottawa — on how to not only attain, but keep market share for your burgeoning enterprise in a perpetually changing field?

Here, three lessons on preparing your business for the future of retail.



Retail is far from dying — but it’s certainly shifting beneath our feet.

Yashar: You need to detect patterns, calibrate your timing and move extremely fast to stay ahead of the competition. We started the concept of stores by thisopenspace four years ago and kept it in our back pockets until now. The market conditions were not ripe at that time so it would have been too early.

Adam: We waited patiently for shifts in market conditions, including the rapid proliferation of online-first brands, and historically high retail vacancies, and then moved faster than anyone else.

Retail is experience driven.

Adam: Rather than serving as a hub for consumers to buy things, today’s most impactful stores are those that craft unforgettable experiences for customers. A great example of this would be IKEA’s Play Café — in Toronto’s Queen West neighbourhood — that thisopenspace created and produced. The Play Café was an ideal destination for guests to eat, play and shop. The location boasted a variety of games built using IKEA products, including tic-tac-toe and a giant pinball machine, and a café that served up IKEA’s iconic meatballs and other treats. It offered a fun, experience-driven way for shoppers to immerse themselves in IKEA’s brand.

Yashar: We live in a world where we need to be occupied all the time. No longer is this generation simply satisfied with the idea of material goods only. There needs to be some sort of lifestyle or experiential component behind everything. Consumers need to understand a brand in its entirety. This is why we have offered a solution for online brands to have an offline presence so people can have that IRL (“in real life”) element.



Never be satisfied with the way things are.

Yashar: You should never be at a stand-still. It’s important to always to curious; always thinking about what’s next. We solved a problem locally and we’re still not satisfied, so we built a global marketplace. Even right now, we’re already thinking what’s next after stores, and have a few ideas.

Adam: We will continue to innovate rapidly to better serve our community of entrepreneurs and fulfill our mission, always finding solutions where needed.