Why a Pop Up?

Why You Should Launch a Pop Up Store
 by Chris Lake

A growing trend in the past few years has been that of the pop-up store. They often appear out of nowhere on our high streets and in shopping malls before vanishing into the ether. 

Pop-up stores are popular with artists and designers, who create temporary boutiques and galleries, but they’ve also been used by big name brands such as Levis, Adidas and Nike, as well as retailers like Target, JC Penney, and Gap.

Pop-ups have also been set up by various online pureplays, such as lastminute.com and The Foundry. For these companies it is about experiential marketing, as much as anything, but they can also be used as sales channels. 

I see a real opportunity here for more online brands to go multichannel, at least temporarily, by launching a pop-up store. If I worked for a pureplay retailer or travel firm I’d be seriously lobbying for a pop-up (or several).

So here are my 14 reasons for investing in a pop-up store:

1. Brand. Pop-ups allow you to extend your brand into the offline world, helping to put a face (or faces) to your online brand name. There is also scope to grow brand awareness among people who might not otherwise know about it.

2. Sales. You don’t have to sell anything, but you can if you want to. Some pop-ups are geared up to drive sales and can benefit from scarcity (of time / products) to drive demand. You can sell offline in the store itself or online, by allowing shoppers to access your website from within the store. Help them with walkthroughs and suggestions. Multichannel personal shopping FTW.

3. Buzz. Pop-ups can generate heaps of buzz from the crowd and the media. It’s the nature of the beast: the fact that they’re here today and (possibly) gone tomorrow means that there’s a short window of opportunity for people to talk about what you’re doing. By interacting with shoppers face-to-face you encourage them to talk about it to their friends and colleagues, and spread the noise via Twitter / Facebook etc. It makes for rapid - and relatively controlled - viral activity. 

4. PR. The media loves to write about this kind of thing. The chances are that your competitors haven’t yet launched a pop-up so why not do it first? You should be able to attract journalists to visit and / or write about the store. It’s a good chance to network with the media, so don’t forget to send those invitations to your launch party!

5. SEO. Buzz and PR = links. Go figure.

6. Love your customers. Pop-ups allow you to get up close and personal with your customers. Make them feel special. Think about giveaways, goodie bags, competitions and special offers (all useful for your pre-launch marketing efforts). Your customers will love you for it, and it gives them a reason to visit the new store.

7. Get more from your viral marketing budget. The next time you think about spending a five-figure sum on the creation of a viral video, game or competition, consider what else you could be doing with that budget. Viral games and videos are oversaturated and most require a seeding budget, on top of the creative costs. Bloggers are swamped with ‘feel free to post this’ requests. It sucks. So it might be better to take that budget and do something special with it. If you want to go viral, then try a pop-up store.

8. Low rents. The fallout from the recession is that many retail outlets are now vacant. Rental rates have fallen dramatically and landlords are more open to short-term projects / leases. The commercial real estate sector is begging you to launch a pop-up store. Make hay before the sun starts shining again…

9. Offload stock. A pop-up store can be a great way of shifting end-of-season stock, especially if positioned as a time-limited sale with a finite amount of bargains. You can also run specific offers and tie-ins with product manufacturers / brands to move stock fast.

10. Make a real shop window. Merchandising online is a skill based on offline techniques. A pop-up will help you think about the basics of product displays in a way that entices shoppers to enter your store. By showcasing your products offline you may learn how to improve online merchandising.

11. Education. Some brands are easier to understand than others. Some websites are more complicated than others. If your online brand is difficult to understand, or your website difficult to use, then there may be some advantage to personally educating customers in an offline environment. 

12. Product development and pre-launches. What’s the best way of determining whether or not a product will sell? How can you attract the right kind of customer feedback to help improve products? Pop-ups can support product development and can help you gauge the market reaction to new launches.

13. Video testimonials. Use this opportunity to film the good things your customers will be saying about your brand. Handing out a glass of champagne prior to filming works wonders. Use the video on your website to add depth, trust and credibility.

14. Test the multichannel-flavored water. In the next decade I reckon we’ll see lots more online brands open up high street / offline stores. Launching a pop-up store is effectively placing your big toe into the water to see how warm it is.


Top 10 Reasons to Start a Pop-up Shop


First, what is a pop-up shop? Is it the person at the mall at a tiny kiosk spraying you with awful smelling perfume? No, it is not! A pop-up shop can be defined as any short-term retail space either selling a product or promoting a brand.

Pop-up shops are quick, eye-catching and fun.

1. Cross-channel selling works. According to Forrester.com, “By 2016 44% of offline retail sales will be influenced by the web. Despite consumer behavior such as “showrooming” (inspecting items in person and purchasing them online), the volume of in-store sales resulting from web research — cross-channel sales — is significantly greater than that of online retail sales.” Having a quick pop-up shop can allow customers to “showroom” and visit your website to purchase merchandise.

2. Vacancy rates are double the history average. What’s with all the “For Lease” signs on Main Street? Vacancy rates are at 9.6% (www.danter.com), which is double the historical rate. Why not fill those open spaces with a pop-up shop? Add to your community and brand.

3. Get your brand seen. Starting a pop-up shop will allow you to reach an entirely new demographic of customers without the risk of opening a brick-and-mortar store.

4. Enhance the community. Cities like New York City and San Francisco are revitalizing their areas with new brands and products. This brings new customers and revenue to the community.

5. Local markets are flourishing. The number of farmers markets has quadrupled since 1994 (http://goo.gl/BbeiZ). What’s driving that force? People shopping locally! Start a pop-up store and build a better relationship with the people that shop in your area.

6. Big-box retailers are hosting pop-up shops. Storefront isn’t just for the Etsy shop owner; it’s also for big brands like JC Penny, Gap and Target. JC Penny is using a store-within-a-store model and revamping their merchandise selection by partnering with other smaller retailers. Pop-up shops offer big brands like JC Penny new market testing and a unique experience for their customer.

7. Sell limited-time inventory. Didn’t sell all of last seasons t-shirts? Starting a pop-up shop can help promote “limited-time” products. Also- try new pricing strategies. Will people pay 35$for your pot-and-pan holder? Find out!

8. Try a new business idea. Meet with potential investors, create buzz and launch your brand. Release butterflies. Make blue lemonade. Make cotton candy unicorns. Try it and see what people think!

9. Develop a more engaging retail experience. According to a projection by Jack Loechner with MediaPost, 75% of US retailers will be developing a more engaging retail environment experience. One option is pop-ups- a unique way to reach out to consumers and give them a very different view of your brand.

10. Now is the right time. Pop-ups benefit your bottom line, the community and your customers. We’ve just given you 10 excellent reasons to start a pop-up shop. What are you waiting for?


Are Pop-up Stores Here to Stay?

If old-time department stores were comprehensive, mom-and-pop store friendly and big-box always low price, what kind of message does pop-up retail whisper into the ear of today's customer?

"New, fun, something different," says Wharton marketing professor Barbara E. Kahn. "Innovation and intrigue," says pop-up leasing agent Christina Norsig, CEO/founder of PopUpInsider. Adds Wharton marketing professor Stephen J. Hoch:It's about trying to "get people there all at the same time to create additional excitement, because it's a pop-up, and it's not going to be there much longer."

As a concept, many industry experts say pop-up is here to stay, because it strikes both business owners and customers as a cure for the sense of retail ennui that has permeated the industry since the start of the recession.

Pop-up has several distinct manifestations, but the basic format is that a retailer looking to sell something with a short shelf life, launch a brand or build awareness opens a storefront for a few days or weeks. Displays are put up, product is stocked, business is conducted and buzz created -- and then it's gone.

A classic example of the genre showed up this month on Philadelphia's Walnut Street, the city's high-end retail spine. Vancouver-based online custom menswear retailer Indochino brought in sample swaths of seersucker and charcoal wool plaids, set up curtained booths and let loose a small army of genial sales associates and tailors. In a space left vacant years ago by Sharper Image but directly across the street from a bustling Brooks Brothers, young men and "fit specialists" together chose fabrics, lapel width and button placement while conferring about style preferences. The whole staging -- which Indochino has also taken toNew York, Boston and Washington, D.C. -- is designed to last just a few days. Four weeks after the fitting,

Sartorial splendor arrives in a box from Shanghai.

"People know we're just going to be here a short time, so there's a sense of urgency," says senior fit specialist Beth Watson. Walk-ins were welcome, but dozens booked appointments online for each day of the two and a half-week visit. At between $379 and $699 per suit -- generally cheaper than custom-made suits at a bricks-and-mortar store -- it all added up to some serious business. Meanwhile, those who miss the pop-up store can take a web tutorial and measure themselves. Says Watson: "Guys "Guys don't always like to go shopping, but they are increasingly comfortable [doing it] online, so once we have your measurements, you're al lset."

Scaring Up Sales Beyond Halloween

Superhero costumes and rubber witch masks are what many shoppers associate with pop-up because of the rash of temporary stores that arrive from late summer to just after Halloween. But pop-up began earlier, in London and Tokyo, before spreading to the U.S. mostly as a seasonal phenomenon. The sector is still green -- so much so that it's not yet tracked as a distinct sub-genre of retail.

The online publication Specialty Retail Report estimates the temporary retail sector as an $8 billion a year industry, although that figure includes not only pop-ups but also kiosks and shopping-mall carts. Research IBIS World found 2,380 pop-up shops in the U.S. in 2012, (68.1% of which were Halloween-themed), from 2,043 three years earlier.

But many say those numbers aren't capturing all of the activity, which now includes stores within stores such as the ones established by eyewear sensation Warby Parker. "Any brand you can think of is in a pop-up or temporary store," says Erik Eliason, co-founder of Storefront, a San Francisco-based startup that matches pop-up retail projects with landlords willing to rent out a space for a short period.

Halloween stores were followed by other, more diverse, pop-ups that filled the vacuum left after large chain bankruptcies and closings. "There's just a lot of inventory still out there," says Hoch, referring to excess retail space. "All construction has stopped; there hasn't been a major mall built in 10 years. We're malled out, but there is still plenty of real estate out there. Either it can sit empty or you can try to do something with it. A landlord would rather make two months' rent on a space than no rent."

One of the first big forays into pop-ups came not from one of the smaller, more nimble retailers, but from a behemoth. Well before the recession, in 2002, Target opened a Christmas store at the Chelsea Piers on the on the Hudson in New York. The temporary store received huge publicity and fired the imagination of other retailers who began to imagine pop ups in other sites never before exploited for their marketplace potential.

As Norsig wrote in her book, Pop-Up Retail: How You Can Master this Global Marketing Phenomenon: "If a pier by the river could work, how about a penthouse? A subway station? A parking space?"

Target has since done 20 pop-ups, mostly in the U.S. "As pop-ups have become increasingly popular, Target continually looks for ways to reinvent this concept with unique twists to ensure each experience feels unique and specialfor our guests," says a Target spokeswoman. After that, pop-ups began popping up all over -- shoe and computer companies, airlines, makeup manufacturers. American chef Thomas Keller brought a French Laundry pop-up to Harrods in London for 10 days in 2011, offering nine courses for £250 ($400).

Kahn likens the phenomenon to the psychology of luxury brands, in which an element beyond the product itself becomes a form of currency. "If too many people wear it, it's not a luxury anymore," she says. "There's a paradox if you sell too much ofsomething. Perhaps that is some of what's going on. It's a way to make it exclusive and special because of the time period."

Pop-ups have divergent business goals. They can be a good way to test a product, dip a toe in a particular location without a long-term lease, make a splash with a brand introduction in a new region, lighten overstocked product through a focused seasonal offering, or establish brand awareness during a special event such as a street festival.

Opera Companies and Orchestras

Non-profits have grabbed hold of the concept, with horticulturalsocieties turning plots of rubble into gardens for a growing season, and opera companies and orchestras engineering pop-up performances in train stations and public markets. These flash performances are typically edited into video pieces used to expand the organization's footprint beyond the regular constituency via social media.

What's in it for landlords? "It's actually very simple," says Peter Eizen, one of the owners of 1518 Walnut St., the Philadelphia building used this month by Indochino. "Most of these companies have a budget, and they come to you and say, 'This is what we can pay,' and you either say OK or no thank you. In this case, they are not paying market rate, but as a landlord, it's a good way to get something out of nothing."

"We've seen all kinds of arrangements," adds Eliason. "Some [landlords] take a flat fee; others take a percentage of the rent. Less common is a percentage ofsales, since we're still in the early days of temporary retail, and typically stores don't have the systems built for tracking sales."

The idea has evolved from stopgap to being a bona fide genre that many say is now helping to bridge the treacherous chasm between the worlds of online and bricks-and-mortar retail. Wharton marketing professor David Bell points to the promise of models like Bonobos, in which clothing customers do a certain amount of perusing and research online, but then come into a shop for the other part of the experience, like touching various materials and getting fitted.

"I think the idea of having a big, enormous four-story building where people come in and take something away is changing," says Bell. "It's a fundamentally inefficient system in some sense. It's very difficult from an inventory standpoint to make sure you have everything everyone needs all the time. People are just not searching for products the way they were 20 years ago. There is an awareness that everyone needs to be both offline and online.”

Many are sufficiently convinced of the symbiotic relationship between e-commerce and bricks and mortar to begin seeking new modes of interplay. Allison Berliner, who graduated with a Wharton MBA this month, has watched customers walk into a store, handle a piece of merchandise -- and then go home and order it online from someone else. The practice, called "showrooming," is an obviously troubling development for bricks and mortar retailers who don't also have an online presence. But Berliner and fellow student Shannon Pierce developed a business plan for the Pop Shop, a system that matches retailers and customers by featuring merchandise online and placing it in stores within stores. The Pop Shop, Berliner says, is essentially an online answer to the consignment shop with considerably more sophisticated bells and whistles.

"The balance of power is shifting," notes Berliner. "It seems to us that bricks and mortar is not going away, but its role is changing. If a store can't address those needs, or if online can't address them, neither is going to thrive." Berliner sees the Pop Shop as a matchmaker. Online brands register with the Pop Shop platform with information on their products and target customer. The Pop Shop recommends pre-existing stores in its network. The brand sets up a display, with product, in the store, along with promotional material that can be used to track sales. The display stays up for a short time, perhaps a month.

The proposal won a grant from the Wharton Fund for Innovation, and the Pop Shop will be testing its concepts as it pitches the idea to investors. Revenues are collected from participating brands and commissions from sales. Berliner envisions an opportunity to scale the concept across a broad spectrum, from smaller retailers who may not have the money to invest in online, to "Nordstrom, which is rethinking the in-store experience. If we can get really good at what we do, become really good at matching [brands with stores], there's no reason it wouldn't work for them."

"I really like what she's doing," says Wharton's Bell of the Pop Shop. "Entrepreneurs who are primarily ecommerce who get retailers into a physicalspace as a way to interact -- I think that's an idea that has some legs. Both parties have something to gain from this. You have a space that's not being used in the best