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The Age questions the values of pop-up


“Pop-ups go corporate, sending rents sky high”. Really ?


Read Pop-ups go corporate, sending rents sky high here


One of our major Melbourne newspapers – The Age – published an article on pop-up last Saturday… in the hard copy it was just inside the cover, on page 2. Which is great for spreading the word about “pop ups” – (hopefully) adding to the wider knowledge and acceptance of pop up as a relevant player in the new retail landscape (did you see our mention that pop-up is now a buzzword ?)

But the ‘Age article seems to condemn the pop-up movement, attributing the prevalence of short-term installations to “driving rental prices sky-high”, also hinting that pop ups should be exclusive to community and entrepreneurial installations, not the place for big business…

Local commercial agents CBRE were quoted as “witnessing unprecedented demand in Melbourne’s CBD for small food and beverage retailers” – but (in the article) they don’t actually make a connection between pop up enquiries and rising rents. On a positive note (rather than condemning the interest) CBRE’s retail services manager Zelman Ainsworth commented that (the demand for new and undiscovered laneways) could provide landlords with “significant rentals for space previously earning little or no income”. So why does The Age article see that as “sending rents sky high” ? (I suppose it depends on how you interpret “significant”… as in appropriate/commercial rates… or as extreme/hefty ?)

Around 2 years ago CBRE commented favourably that Pop ups provide shot in the arm for Melbourne’s shopping strips (I do concede they discussed suburban shopping areas then, as distinct from the CBD…) – but more recently The Age also quoted the same CBRE source on a Collins Street pop up success (where the short-term tenants decided to stay on…) – as “the best solution for a vacant shop and now landlords are embracing the idea. It gives the tenant a chance to show their wares and shoppers love the variety,”

Whilst I concede the term “pop up” is often over-used and occasionally exploited – many short (and not-so-short) installations are using the tag out of context, seemingly just to hop on the pop up wagon – that doesn’t mean the movement should be limited to small business and creative enterprises. There are many examples of good pop up delivered by major corporate interests – occasionally as genuine sales events (not only as branding exercises)… and those big brands tend to do pop up quite well. They invest appropriately in the promotion, location and theme of an event, they’ll draw crowds in for their brief appearance – and they “raise the bar” of what pop up can be… ie. that it’s not always just a low-cost / low commitment entry (which many start-ups and community groups use). The “majors” tend to embrace pop up as a vehicle to educate, entertain and enlist customers, not just take their cash. There’s certainly nothing wrong with either of those approaches… both have a place in the culture of pop up.

The Age article quotes the example of the Section 8 bar and café in Tattersall’s Lane – established in an-otherwise unloved and undesirable side alleyway – as one of Melbourne’s original pop up venues… It’s still a great, quirky bar and has certainly made a positive difference to the surrounding area – but surely after some 7 years (albeit on a temporary lease) I’d argue that Section 8 has gone beyond the original concept (and intention) of a pop up installation.

Bec McHenry (Pop Union) supports the good use of pop up, quoting success stories such as the City of Kingston’s Pop Up Bar – and she also questions the motives of some traders using the “pop-up” tag. When Myer promoted a “Pop Up Sale” last month, I too was a little disappointed. Myer has used pop up appropriately in the past – with clever and relevant short-term retail events such as their December 2012 installation at Melbourne’s Southern Cross railway station… a temporary out-post offering last-minute Christmas gift suggestions… Not only did they capture a few passing sales, but sent out the message that Myer is keeping up with trends in retail, and willing to consider the way (and places) they do business. But when Myer ran TV commercials recently, promoting their Pop Up Sale (and nothing actually “popped”, it was just their usual mid-year-clearance-sale format…) – the pop up tag was meaningless and out of context.


Featured image : The Age logo

The Age logo



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