Pop up affirmations, around the globe
The “phenomenon” of pop up is becoming an accepted – and acknowledged – force in retail !
I guess 10 years is a relatively-short time in the history of civilisation, but it’s quite a long stretch in retail and technology ! A decade ago we probably spent most of our dollars in just a few local super-stores, making an occasional purchase on-line (with some suspicion) – and we certainly spent more of our time on a telephone actually talking (as opposed to browsing and texting…)
In the mid-naughties our ‘phones got smarter and mass-broadcasting became easy (and free to use). Facebook and Twitter were both only launched (to the public) in 2006 – two of the platforms which now provide marketers immediate access to huge numbers of fans and customers. Just a year or so later the Global Financial Crisis arrived – forcing many small retailers out of business, leaving scores of empty stores in their wake (and surviving shop-keepers desperate to maintain foot-traffic…) E-commerce became more sophisticated and validated – attracting the attention (and dollars) of traditional “bricks and mortar” customers. Each of those factors – social media, vacant store fronts and an alternative to the traditional shopping model – combined to facilitate the launch a bold new genre of retail and experiential event… the “pop up shop”…
The combination of new technologies and a changing retail landscape opened the door for some new thinking – providing opportunities which hadn’t been easy in the past. Within a couple of years, brands were utilising vacant properties for short and savvy events, grabbing attention via social media and raising awareness in ways which just hadn’t been possible (or imagined) before. Short-term sales and marketing events suddenly became multi-media experiences, with clever twists and attractions to entice and engage customers.
Ten years ago we hadn’t really heard of the “pop up shop” – although trendwatching.com did discuss the concept back in 2004… “we’ve dubbed this trend POP-UP RETAIL, as these initiatives have a tendency to pop up unannounced, quickly draw in the crowds, and then disappear or morph into something else, adding to retail the fresh feel, exclusivity and surprise…”
The “pop up shop” phenomenon was quickly embraced by a relatively-small bunch of optimistic / adventurous / creative types… but many more stood back and criticised the movement as a fad, ultimately not healthy for retail – and certainly not a solution to rising store vacancies. For the past 10 years or so, pop up has struggled to gain acceptance and acknowledgement as a valid alternative… but finally the tide is starting to turn !
The Wall Street Journal recently described how “mall landlords are turning to short-term retailers known as ‘pop-up stores’ to attract shoppers and boost revenue… Big shopping center owners such as Westfield Corp. and Simon Property Group are dedicating more staff and mall space to the short-term stores…” The article went on to comment “By giving more leasing flexibility and offering to help design a concept for the physical space to upstarts that might not be able to commit to five or 10 year deals, mall owners are hoping to refresh and enliven their properties. Pop-up stores that introduce local brands, perform demos and offer shoppers an elite selection of products or allow them to interact directly with designers can help drive traffic to other tenants…Some mall owners are allocating about 5% of their leasable space to house such transient tenants, by building a ‘white box’ pop-up store with a plain interior that can be used by the next tenant”#
In the United Kingdom “retail vacancy rates have topped 10% for the first time since April 2015” (according to The Industry) – partly due to a seasonal decrease in pop up shops. The article quoted Springboard director Diana Wehrle as saying “vacancy figures at this time of year can be skewed by fewer pop-up shops and short-term leases failing to be renewed… Between October and January vacancies went down, partly on the back of more pop-up shops. Since then, temporary lets have not become permanent lets. The key thing is to see if pop-ups start increasing again coming into Christmas”*
And across the ditch (in New Zealand), Stuff has published a positive article on the value of pop ups. “Pop-up stores… have surged in popularity in recent years, and have become a permanent part of the retail landscape in major shopping centres in the US and Europe… Retailers and landlords who previously ignored or dismissed them as marketing events or as cheap discount stores, or perhaps because they lacked the know-how to try them, are now seeing their worth as an opportunity to reach out to new customers… Commercial landlords should embrace pop-up stores if they are to weather changing shopping habits and prevent valuable spaces from lying vacant, a real estate agent says.” The article also quotes another source – Greg Harford of Retail NZ – as saying “pop-ups would become an increasing phenomenon in New Zealand because they were not only popular with consumers, but they were an opportunity for retailers. ‘Retail is constantly reinventing itself… pop-ups are part of the mix even though they represent a relatively small slice of the retail pie’”^
Australia (especially Melbourne and Sydney) is recognized as a significant player in the pop up scene – with a healthy and welcoming attitude to testing new brands and concepts in retail. That’s probably why global mega-stores have launched (and then expanded) in our major cities (Uniqlo, H&M, Top Shop, Sephora…) and also why other brands include Australia in their pop up tours – Magnum ice cream, Nespresso coffee, Honda cars, Nike sporting apparel and Toms shoes have all popped up here (at least once) – also more recently we’ve hosted Kanye West’s Life of Pablo and London-based House of Voltaire.
Those media comments aren’t suggesting that after 10-short-years “pop up” has entered the mainstream of retail (and I’m not sure that it wants to join, anyway…) – but it’s nice to read that the concept has survived a busy, initial decade and is finally gaining some genuine acknowledgement… As attitudes (and technologies) continue to change I hope we’ll continue to see pop up settle in as a valid and acceptable alternative. I’d expect the next few years will be interesting – to see how the pop up concept continues to develop, challenge and entertain us (and hopefully…. stay true to its DNA…) !
image : Google Images – FightingCocksIE on Twitter
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