L.A.-based Vacant pioneered pop-up retail back in 1999 after the founders returned from a business trip to Tokyo. Intrigued how consumers would line up to purchase limited-edition products from niche retailers, once the products were sold out (usually within hours), the store would close until the owner received new product. Voilà! Great concept equals new business.
With the recession creating abnormal levels of empty space, the traditionally tough landlords had no choice but to start negotiating short-term leases. With retail in a static mode for several years and the Internet literally changing the retail mantra of location-location-location, this retail newbie was literally at the right place and definitely at the right time. Some of the biggest brands (Target, Kate Spade, Gucci, Louis Vuitton) have developed pop-up shops as part of their sales strategies, and some of the most popular restaurants today are on wheels. (Thank you, Twitter!)
Businesses initially set up temporary shops as an alternative means of retailing; however, very quickly this new method of selling has become another golden opportunity. Marketers are viewing pop-up stores as highly creative interactive billboards to test, launch and sell outside the traditional retail environment. Whatever one’s belief or marketing strategy is, consumers love them, and the timing couldn’t have been better with consumers in search of ways to feel more connected.
Most pop-up retailers are still fashion- or restaurant based. However, a few more eccentric pop-ups are appearing, including playgrounds, roller rinks and even puppy eateries.
Companies are recognizing the low-cost, flexible opportunity to spread a message in key locations to spark consumer interest. Lily’s Kitchen out of London was created by a food brand of the same name, and the staff waits on your dog hand and foot, providing story readings and holistic veterinarian treatment. The restaurant was completely free of charge for its six-week run.
Coca Cola Israel recently launched an eco-friendly pop-up that educates and sells upcycled wares and goods made from Coke products. Visitors can bring their empty cans and bottles so they can be recycled as part of Coke’s popular Give It Back campaign.
German cosmetic brand Schwarzkopf teamed up with Chanel icon Karl Lagerfeld to create the “Lightbox,” an exclusive pop-up to house innovative styling tools, top hairstylists and a café for visitors. The exterior uses Schwarzkopf’s brand icon of silhouettes (including Lagerfeld himself), making it a clever branding choice.
For the design of the Arnsdorf 72-hour pop-up store, Australian architectural studio Edwards Moore used unlimited pairs of pantyhose tights to create the temporary space. Stretched over the walls and ceilings, the tights created a cool setting for Amsdorf’s sample sale, which resulted in a major sales boost compared to previous years.
Leave it to eBay to see the silver lining in thousands of prime square feet suddenly left vacant in New York City. The online retailer wanted people to see what just a fraction of its inventory would look like in a store showcasing many “wow” items including designer clothes, shoes and accessories. Where, you ask? Directly across the street from Bergdorf Goodman and near Louis Vuitton, Barney’s and Apple, all of which retail similar — if not the same — items!
Next on the pop-up horizon? Bizarre merchandise pairings. Take “Juice,” located in the Lu Wan District of Shanghai, which sells every juice flavor imaginable along with “Adidas Originals.” Yes, the unique pairing of juice and sneakers is spearheading a wave of highly creative pairings with the intention to shock and wow shoppers.
Considering the open arms of consumers and the number of pop-ups appearing globally, this trend shows no signs of fading any time soon. “New” is always exciting, and when combined with the list of benefits including low costs, flexibility, an ideal product incubator and unique exposure — not to mention fresh and innovative consumer interactivity — I am confident this fascinating trend will be sending shockwaves across the country at the high-priced, location-location shopping center leasing offices!