In a world of Instagram, Facebook and SMS text marketing, being fleet of foot in an ever-changing world of retail advertising and sales is the name of the game. As retailers and restaurateurs navigate the treacherous waters of effective advertising, an amplified sense of haste has motivated these proprietors to explore additional means of creating a buzz around their products and food. These days, retailers are embracing and realizing the value of pop-up stores in providing a fresh and exciting approach to reverse the trend of retail ennui among consumers. Like a jack in the box, pop-up stores burst on to the scene – typically in small retail spaces – for a few days, weeks or months and sell merchandise with an ephemeral shelf-life. In many respects, pop-up stores serve as a prudent and business savvy way to test a product, a special dish, or a new clothing line in hopes of making a cannon ball like splash in a particular retail market.
Coupled with a well-tailored marketing campaign on social media, retailers and restaurateurs can generate fanfare and excitement around their brand. Given the palpable and increasing thirst among consumers to readily learn about and stay on top of in vogue brands, pop-up stores are a cost-effective means to build brand awareness and check the pulse of consumers. The concept of pop-up stores has evolved over the past few years. What was once considered a desperate attempt at advertising has now been widely accepted as the “New World” of retail marketing, bridging the gap between the “Old World” of big brick and mortar stores and online retail. One of the main virtues of pop-up stores is that they are much less expensive than your run of the mill television ads, which do not engage the customer in the same fashion and can fall on deaf ears. Pop-up stores, however, inject a certain spark into the brand and allow consumers to interact with the brand and its products in an innovative manner.
But before we sing paeans in full support of pop-up stores, we should mention that it’s not necessarily easy to set up a pop-up store. First, the lack of unoccupied retail stores in vibrant markets can be one of the biggest impediments for retailers looking for viable locations. Another inherent issue is finding landlords willing to lease space to retailers on a short-term basis. To assuage these concerns, there is a burgeoning market of online start-ups – for instance, Storefront – that connect store owners and landlords who wish to rent retail space for short terms to retailers, restaurateurs and artists. The true beauty of Storefront is that it allows retailers to dip a toe in a particular location without the pressures that come with a long-term lease. The other potential benefit of pop-up retail is that it may provide first-hand proof that a vacant space can become viable and profitable again. This certainly proved to be true in Buffalo and Detroit where numerous pop-up stores have sprung up and revitalized these once deserted downtown areas.
For small retailers who are just getting started, opening a pop-up store is an innovative approach to growing the business and increasing brand awareness. Although big box department stores will forever have a place in the retail market, these large retail spaces may be better suited for more established brands. For the up and coming retailers and restaurateurs, who must count every penny that comes in, leasing too much space may be fundamentally inefficient and too onerous from an inventory standpoint. A pop-up store is a happy medium that gives retailers and restaurateurs an opportunity to operate a retail or restaurant establishment, gauge future demand, and engage their customers with an intriguing approach.