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How interesting would it be to see a store emerging from nowhere and vanish once the masses have shopped their heart out…? The thought has evoked interest around the world leading to the evolution of a whole new retail concept termed as “pop-up” retail in recent times.  The concept is popular to create a ‘buzz’ rather than generating sales, where a store pops up for a few days at a major city or a mall and disappears after creating interest among consumers. Adopted my more and more retailers this ‘pop-up” trend in 2011 is at the moment driving global retail innovation…


Retailers are always on the lookout for new ways to grab eyeballs, followed by increased footfalls in their stores. From travelling salesmen in early times to social networking sites today, retailers are innovating to generate business. In this evolution of marketing innovation pop-up stores started getting very popular a few years ago, as retailers discovered that they were cheaper solutions than year-round rentals, and could generate a lot of buzz for companies during essential months. They’re often strategically placed during the holiday season for shoppers, or put up just in time for the launch of a major motion picture.

The main reason which makes this whole concept so appealing is the combined sense of surprise, of inviting the customer to be a part of something familiar but in a completely new way and even strengthen brand recognition and loyalty. By setting up these stores in locations of high visibility like a jogger’s park, traditional markets or a mall allows a brand to take the showroom to the clients. Therefore, besides earning publicity or generating sales, pop up stores also provide an opportunity to study, test the customer behavior and target a niche audience. By evaluating the number of walk-ins and consumer response to the collection, a brand can even analyze a lot in terms of future expectations and sales.  The numbers of enquiries reflect the effectiveness in terms of increasing sales footprint and the number of orders converted is reflective of its impact in shortening the sales cycle.

Globally, many premium clothing brands and premium retailers have tried this concept to boost sales, gain market visibility and build a brand. Target was the first retailer to start this concept, in an attempt to introduce Isaac Mizrahi’s women collection; Target opened a 1,500 sq ft pop up store at Rockefeller Center in New York in 2003. Since then other big retailers have been banking on this idea time and again. Walmart in 2006 adopted this concept when it offered a two-day-only exposure of its new fashion line, Metro 7, in a Fashion Cabana in Miami’s South Beach district.

Still primarily used to launch a new product or to sell limited edition of the product or as a pilot run before launching the actual product, pop-up retail is gaining popularity in India as well. A recent example of this is of Tommy Hilfiger, as the brand has taken the shopping experience to another level with this concept of a pop up store which will be traveling to several cities, like Paris, London, Madrid, Amsterdam, Milan and Tokyo. Hilfiger and co. have built an 800 square foot “traveling beach cottage”, a collapsible construction, with white picket fence and a neat little lawn in front with garden loungers and sun umbrellas, to promote the label’s collaboration with Preppy Handbook author Lisa Burnbach. Making fascinating news and attracting a lot of attention, this marketing move is surely a hit.

What is surprising to notice is that after the global recession of 2008-09, the concept of pop up retailing gained more significance. In order to fill empty spaces in strip malls, shopping centers and street level shops, the commercial real estate companies embraced this business model by leasing departments that turn empty space into paying tenants for a few months or rent out kiosk space to retailers. As the consumer became more cost conscious it became even more important to attract them through other means and this whole move became more like a promotional activity for many. These promotions are particularly useful to educate consumers, create interest amongst youngsters of college campuses who are more spontaneous and also to bring urban brands into rural areas to target a new market altogether without much investment of opening a long term store in every area.

Earning a sudden fame in 2011, other stores like MAC and Apple adopted this strategy this year to launch and publicize their new collections. While MAC opened shop-within-a-shop in April 2011 to allow people to shop the MAC Wonder Woman collection before it released officially in May, the whole experience was created as a full of fun fan-girl merchandise for girls. To celebrate the raging gadget, Apple launched iPad 2 in a temporary popup shop in the heart of Austin, opened on the first day of south by southwest festival filled with people who lined outside the store to purchase their ipads. Switching back to fashion clothing, as a promotional activity by Louis Vuitton, the brand a pop-up store on the Croisette, on the occasion of the Cannes International Film Festival, next to its existing Cannes store. This new shop focused specifically on custom tailored elegant eveningwear inspired by movies.

The latest edition to the concept of pop-up stores is to combine the pull of social networking with the surprise appeal of pop-up stores. In August 2010, Rachel Roy launched a pop-up store on Facebook. The insider shopping event gave the brand’s Facebook fans early access to Roy’s new jewelry line — a collaboration with British R&B artist Estelle. The pop-up store, which lasted three days, boosted Rachel Roy’s fan base by 25% in the first day and 100% by the end of the campaign. The Facebook Page was acquiring 1 fan every 1.5 seconds. The collection featured an exclusive, limited edition piece that sold out in only six hours.

The Rachel Roy pop-up shop was built on a software-as-a-service solution created by Fluid Social Fan Shop. Peter Goldie, the vice president of marketing at Fluid Agency, an ecommerce firm whose clients include Diane von Furstenberg, Nine West, Theory, Vans and Coach, believes that retailers need to create engaging social merchandising experiences that increase a brand’s fan base while driving transactions. “Marketers are always looking for ways to drive customer purchases,” Goldie said. “Having limited edition and time sensitive sales helps retailers drive sales without having to discount.” Goldie added that pop-up shops are a great way for brand manufacturers to test the ecommerce waters without going into full-scale website development.


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  1. Charolette Muther / Dec 14 2011 12:41 am

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