Pop up retail is ready for primetime

No longer just a Halloween phenomenon, pop up stores are evolving into engines of economic development in downtowns and areas that have languished with vacant store fronts. We asked our Zintro experts to tell us their thoughts on popup stores and their potential long-term impact for communities.

Jerry Birnbach, a retail industry design leader, says that pop up stores are certainly a great way to test the waters in terms of the vitality of a retail offering. “The pitfall can be too much compromise in utilizing every element in the existing space, which can be the fastest path to failure,” he says. “There are key elements of store design that need to be addressed and a determination needs to be made whether the remodel or renovation will have a positive impact on the ROI.”

Birnbach says store appearance is critical. “Short of selling dollar goods, the inside needs to reflect your brand and spirit correctly,” he says. “I am sure we have all passed a restaurant and wondered if we wanted to eat there. When we look in the window and see strange colors, poor lighting, and damaged sections of wall, we will keep walking because the first impression was not luring us in.”

In Birnbach’s experience, lighting is paramount to almost every item being sold. “Lighting is one of the most costly elements of a store to correct, but it is worth it. Clothing in the wrong lighting goes pale and loses its appeal. Packaging in the wrong light will give a poor sense of comparison to colors the customer is looking for. There are some lighting systems that you can disconnect easily when you leave the location and reuse it elsewhere,” he says. “In order to give a pop up retail space a fair chance, eliminate as many factors such as store condition and lighting level, which can impact the success of sales. Don’t ignore the visual factors of the pop up store.”

Frank Frystak, a business consultant, says that there is a company called VACANT that turns the pop up retail model into a long-term business formula. “Vacant is an exclusive retail concept and exhibition store that opens for one month only in empty spaces in major cities including New York, London, Tokyo, Shanghai, Paris, Berlin, Stockholm and Los Angeles,” he explains. “It showcases a range of one-off, hard to find, and strictly limited edition products from established brands and emerging designers. Limited quantities are available and not all products on display can be purchased. New store locations are announced by email to Vacant Club members only moments before opening. This is just one of many different pop up store types that are emerging in the pop up business.”

Rebecca Fitts runs a company called Pop-up Marketing that helps companies develop and implement pop-up strategies and thinks that pop ups are here to stay. “These types of stores are beneficial to customers, retailers, and landlords. She says the benefits of popping-up include:

  • Bringing an online business to a brick and mortar concept
  • Testing the market for a brand
  • Launching a new product
  • Increasing brand awareness and marketing for a brand
  • Introducing concept boutiques
  • Presenting seasonal shops
  • Boosting revenues with highly promoted sample or warehouse sales.

Fitts acknowledges that the retail market is saturated which means consumers have power and choices. “They are just a walk or click away from the competition. Customers are looking for experiences from retailers at this point. Pop-ups allow retailers to bring consumers multi-platform distribution and have an experiential impact,” she says.

For real estate folks, Fitts says pop up shops are like found money while negotiating a long-term lease. And, they are a great way to take a dark empty space and highlight how it could be used to the public and prospective long-term leasers and buyers.

“The potential long-term impact for communities is I believe is a positive one. Pop ups bring new companies, energy, and excitement to communities and spaces. My first pop-up store was on the Lower East Side in Manhattan in an up and coming neighborhood. Since then, the cost of the space went up, which was good for the landlord,” Fitts says.

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