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A return to pop up shopping (but in what format ?)


Paul Smith has led the return to pop up shopping with two traditional warehouse-style sales (well, almost traditional) – whilst other brands are busy planning their pop ups. Some will experiment with a mix of physical vs. digital events… but many more are still wondering what / when / if…

A little over 6 weeks ago designer label Paul Smith hosted their first Australian pop up warehouse sale for 2020 (at the stylish new The Venue Alexandria), which could’ve been a bit of a risk as many folk were still a little nervous about public events and mingling in crowds. But that Sydney sale was a success for the label – and now they’re ready to do it again in Melbourne (thanks to Premier Dan for opening up our retail !)

Next weekend Paul Smith returns to Chapel Street for a 4 day sale, with discounts up to 80%. If it’s anything like their last Melbourne pop up sale (also their first – November 2019)… the event will offer men’s and women’s clothing, shoes and accessories…


What –        Paul Smith Melbourne pop up warehouse sale

Where –     671 Chapel Street, South Yarra

When –       Thursday 10-7, Friday & Saturday 10-6, Sunday 10-5

source :       Paul Smith Warehouse Sale / Facebook page


Other labels are also working out the details for their return to pop up – booking venues and suppliers, planning social media blasts, allocating stock and staff for a December sale… and checking the latest retail restrictions. But there’s still some uncertainty around what is (and isn’t) allowed when it comes to large-venue pop ups.

Last week I read an update from Save Victorian Events – who’ve been hounding the government’s Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions (DJPR) since mid-year, advocating for more action / support (and direction) for Victoria’s “decimated” events industry. If you haven’t considered how the pandemic has affected our public events… watch this sobering video from Harry the Hirer. Save Victorian Events (SVE) has had limited response from government – it seems “Jobs, Precincts and Regions” has had other priorities. On 22nd November the latest lifting of COVID-19 restrictions allowed “up to 150 per space indoors”, but it was unclear how that related to events in public venues.

On 25th November the “Victorian Public Event Framework” was clarified (a little) by SVE – “the directions/guidelines that apply to simpler events are based on the setting (i.e. the type of venue) and not on the activity. So if you do an event in a retail space, you work off the directions/guidelines for the retail space. In a theatre it is the cinema/theatre directions/guidelines. In a hospitality venue it is the hospitality directions/guidelines…”* Hmmm, that doesn’t help much if a venue is multi-purpose – eg. a space offered for retail sales / fashion events / warehouse parties / meetings and conferences etc…

SVE have provided an email address for questions and queries – – suggesting everything goes through DJPR and then on to DHHS (Department of Health and Human Services) for review… “(but) I would be getting in early as I think they will be slammed. I don’t think they realise just how many events happen in Victoria.”*

2020 has seen retailers embrace digital platforms more than ever before, by necessity. Over the past few months many outlets have relied solely on internet sales, having to experiment more with their online marketing and engaging new digital communications and processing strategies.

Some brands have chosen to enhance their physical and digital profiles, Omni-style. For years we’ve heard about those Omnichannel strategies – where “organizations improve their user experience and drive better relationships with their audience across points of contact… (including) channels such as physical locations and environments, ecommerce, mobile applications, social media and emerging formats like augmented and mixed reality or dynamically personalised video”#

Now that Victorian retail is open again, we could see pop ups launched as hybrid events – blending physical with digital… For example, a fashion brand might initially host their warehouse sale in the “traditional style” over a few days in a large format space, filled with garments and accessories across racks and tables (just like the old days) – but with carefully managed customer times, registrations and social distancing. And then morph into an online event, offering customer appointments via a “meetings” software such as Zoom.

In the (second) digital phase customers would be guided around the racks of inventory by a (real) sales assistant, pulling out samples to show detail and discuss sizing and options, accessorising etc… just like in a fashion boutique but online and COVID-safe ! The rest of the sale – processing of payments, delivery instructions etc – would also occur digitally. A few months ago a Melbourne fashion label did just that, expecting to run a few days in each format – but soon discovered the virtual showroom worked amazingly well, extending the sale by several weeks !

We’d expect that much of the highly-prized inventory would move quickly through the initial (physical) phase, as brand-fans would still flock to snap up bargains and take their purchases out the door, on the day. The next phase (via Zoom, etc) would be less frantic, but easy to sell as customers can still “pick” their purchases off racks in real-time, online.

For other brands the thought of a physical retail pop up within the remainder of 2020 will be too hard, too soon… Until those businesses regain the confidence and momentum to launch physical events (with or without a digital add-on), there are other software applications which may enhance a virtual event. A customer of ours recently hired a venue and set up their (temporary) physical store with stock on racks, shelves and mannequins, all styled and themed. They then recorded the whole thing in 3D (using the technology of Matterport) before launching their return to pop up purely online.

Interesting times… while some brands are going back to pop ups in the traditional style, some will experiment with hybrid events. And others are still left wondering…


* source :     Save Vic Events / Facebook

# source :    Omnichannel / Wikipedia

Also watch this video from one of Victoria’s leading event suppliers – Harry the Hirer on YouTube



images :  Google Images : Paul Smith, Save Victorian Events, virtual pop up, return to pop up


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