Japan’s Counterworks launches Shopcounter, Airbnb for retail spaces

Japan’s Counterworks launches Shopcounter, Airbnb for retail spaces

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From the left: Counterworks CEO Naoki Mikame, CCO Kento Yamamoto

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based startup Counterworks recently launched in full Shopcounter, an online marketplace focusing on retail counters.

Upon launch, Counterworks also announced that Kento Yamamoto of The Clip [1] joined the team as CCO (Chief Creative Officer) from June, who has been collaborating with various startups in designs.

Online marketplace handling pop-up spaces for retailers

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Shopcounter is an online marketplace handling pop-up spaces for the purpose of displaying, selling or promoting products, where user retailers can complete the rental procedure online including search, inquiry, reservation and payment.

Overseas, San Francisco-based Storefront and UK-based Appear Here are offering similar services, indicating that it is a sector noteworthy of the limelight.

Counterworks CEO Naoki Mikame had been working for Japanese adtech startup FreakOut until last August. After that, he started this new company on his own and launched Shopcounter due to his original interest in the real estate business.

Mikame notes,

I have been interested in the real estate business in part since my parents’ company deals in real estate and construction. However, the management style for real estate has been changing lately as indicated by Airbnb. Considering this situation and leveraging my experiences, I came to launch Shopcounter, while also keeping in perspective a social background where the number of vacant storefronts has been increasing.

Real spaces for e-Commerce

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Space available at a Harajuku shopping mall

Mikame explains that growth now in the e-Commerce market is another factor behind the birth of Shopcounter, in addition to the surplus of available pop-up spaces.

Mikame says,

The e-commerce market size is expanding as the number of online trading users increases. A sizable number of consumers constitutes the e-commerce end-user pool intent on directly touching the products in order to confirm the details before purchase, so that even web-originated stores require marketing plans that utilize real spaces.

Today it has become much easier to establish a small business. Those who want to open stores can own their spaces by utilizing vacant stores or empty commercial spaces, and we hope to support them upon gathering customers online.

Shopcounter is seen being suitable as well for active marketplaces that cater in handcrafted goods.

Considering the characteristics of Shopcounter, it is important that many people can easily visit the pop-up spaces. Hence, most of the rental properties listed on the website are located in areas with much traffic or good accessibility. By focusing on the retailers, it can likely be differentiated from other marketplaces handling rental spaces.

Designer taking part in management

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Another announcement in addition to this official launch of the service noted that Kento Yamamoto, who is a designer of The Clip, will join the team as CCO.

Yamamoto explains:

I have been involved in design of Shopcounter from the early stage, however development had been delayed in spite of the pre-launch in February. Being interest in business content, I came to think of joining the team on my own.

I have participated in a lot of matters related to newly establishment of startups as a designer so far. There are still only a few designers who understand management as much as the product owners, even less with skills of actually designing and coding hands-on. It would be interesting to develop a new role model for designers, by joining startups as a board member who owns the company stocks as well.

Recently, we had reported that Mikihiro Fujii, an UX (user experience) designer, had joined Tokyo-based Goodpatch as a corporate officer. We should keep an eye on Counterworks and see how the management team which adds a designer will impact the entire organization.

Offers different approach for retailers

According to Mikame, Shopcounter has set the goal of some 300 spaces to be registered in Tokyo alone by next March.

We are now at the stage of proposing plans to rent out counters or sections available. There we explain to store owners that customers differing from former ones would visit the store as a result of collaborating with other types of business or brands.

He adds,

Also we tell owners prior to registration that they can refuse to rent the space, and should rent only to retailers having concepts that match the entire store. Store owners will be charged intermediation fees if the rental contracts are concluded.

Recently some cafés or coffee stands attached to apparel shops can often be seen in Japan, in an effort to approach target users from different perspectives or to extend their in-store time. Shopcounter also appears to be angling for such demands.

Translated by Taijiro Takeda
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy


  1. The Clip is a prototyping and engineering team focused on developing web services and mobile apps. The Bridge logo was designed by The Clip team.