Pop-up Shops: Exploring the Latest Trend in Independent Retail

what's a pop-up shop

Back in 2004, pop-up shops were being touted as a quirky new retail trend. A decade later, people are still wondering what’s a pop-up shop and how can retailers embrace the power of the pop-up. There are websites dedicated to booking short-term retail spaces. While pop-up retail parks draw huge crowds and traditional shopping centres offer short-term rents on spaces.

What’s a pop-up shop?

So, what’s a pop-up shop good for and what are the advantages of here-today, gone-tomorrow retail, and how can you get in on the pop-up party?

Speed and responsiveness

The pop-up label might be new, but the idea of using an empty space to capitalise on a time-sensitive opportunity has been around forever. Christmas decoration shops that appear in November and sell out by December 24th are a familiar sight. These days it’s independent retailers as well as opportunistic entrepreneurs jumping on the bandwagon.

The format is low risk. No long-term rents, no permanent fittings; jump in quick and get out fast. Founders of pop-up space booking site AppearHere came up with the idea after launching a business in the run up to the Queen’s Jubilee in 2012. They wanted to sell themed merchandise but they needed to move quickly. Within two weeks they opened a pop-up, traded for a successful few days then closed their doors, realising in the process that this responsive retail model would be attractive to others too.

Getting our hands on online shopping

Online retailers are increasingly using pop-ups to tap into the basic psychology of shopping enjoyment, and they’re discovering that a high street presence is now an asset.

Touch sets off an emotional connection between customer and product, leading to increased sales. For an online retailer these stores offer a chance for interaction and brand connection.

Luggage retailer M-24 sells re-purposed truck tarpaulin bags primarily online, but they also use pop-ups in London stations. Stocking their bags on the high street would require investment in distribution, marketing and overseas production, so instead they are committed to sticking to the model and concentrating on their product.

Another online retailer experimenting with pop-up stores is cult business card company Moo.com, whose pop-up in Boxpark Shoreditch encourages customers to feel different paper types and weights before ordering. This generates repeat business from customers likely to re-order cards online in future.

Idea Testing

The format is ideal for testing concepts and products, while also giving easy access to real-world market research.

Fashion designers Emin and Paul opened a pop-up to raise awareness for their brand. As well as introducing style-conscious East London shoppers to their products, they treated their pop-up as a market research tool to establish popular designs, ranges and target demographics.

Shop shares

Pop-up stores are increasingly clustered together in dedicated developments, like the Camden Collective Shop in Camden Stables, London, giving small businesses access to large, sometimes iconic locations that wouldn’t be accessible to a single start-up.

Brighton interiors store Merlin & Ellis offer single shelf pop-ups in their store in the Kemptown area of the city, pairing with designers who match their ethos.

what's a pop-up shop

Pop-up future

As a result of all the success, the pop-up model looks set to expand. Boxpark are due to open another site in Croydon next year as part of the regeneration of the area and landlords of empty shops across the country are increasingly looking to pop-ups to bring them short term rents. Their popularity could also be the forerunner of a resurgence in physical retail as online stores goes back to the high street and embrace the social aspect of shopping.



Trend Watching

Fresh Egg

Consumer Psychology, Jansson-Boyd


Image Credit

Jason Paris, http://tinyurl.com/p6e4y9m