Pop up stores are here and they may be reinvigorating retail throughout the United States.
As a teenager in the 1980s, I spent an inordinate amount of time at the local shopping mall. Roosevelt Field Mall became my home away from home. My sister worked at Macy’s. She would drive to work, drop me off to roam the mall, then I’d meet her several hours later for the drive home.
Pop up stores back then were kiosks. Small, self-contained kiosks in the central aisle of the mall’s corridors. Some sold only items during peak gift-giving seasons: I remember the bonsai tree concession, another that sold crystal pendants during the pendant-wearing craze of the late 1980s. Another etched personalized messages, monograms and the like on silver picture frames, mugs, etc.
Each of these tiny stores focused exclusively on a single them. They differ from today’s pop up stores the way your grandfather’s Chevy differs from the Volt parked in your garage and recharging from the household current.
Linda Niehm, professor of Apparel Events, and Hospitality at Iowa State University stated in a recent press release, “What we’re seeing is in part of a natural evolution of the retail cycle, and old formats are replaced with something more relevant.”
Retail is a dynamic industry. It is constantly evolving and changing. Stores evolved from single-category shops (the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker) to the grocery store and supermarket (with butcher and bakery counters along with thousands of other products) and the department store (which sold everything including candles in one convenient space.) The internet added pricing competition along with an intense focus on fresh new goods; if I can get a pair of jeans from Amazon at a lower price, why should I bother driving to the Gap in the mall to buy a pair?
Enter the pop-up store. These stores take over small retail spaces for short amounts of time – weeks, perhaps – with a themed experience. Vacant stores or unusual structures such as disused cargo containers are transformed into a retail space.
Niehm and colleague Ann Marie Fiore conducted a study in 2010 that indicated that retail consumers like novelty in their shopping experiences. The same old stores in the mall bore consumers; the novel experience of discovering a new brand, product category, or style in a pop-up store may invigorate the shopping experience and draw customers away from their computers to shop on the internet and back to physical retail spaces. Millennials especially are interested in brands that resonate with their values. They eschew large, traditional stores.
Brands are experimenting with pop-ups in unique ways. Bonobos khakis opened pop-up stores in the lobby of an office building and netted $250,000.
Technology offers another way for pop-ups to succeed. Although the small space prohibits stocking multiple colors or sizes, with the touch of a tablet, shopkeepers can order items from their online store to be sent to the consumer. No hassle, no additional steps for the customers, and an easy in-person shopping experience that lets them see and touch the items in person.
Are pop-ups right for you? They may be a passing fad, but anything that can reinvigorate retail offers additional methods for small business owners to sell more. It may be the right time for you to explore pop-ups for your retail business.