Story by Mariam Makatsaria
A pop-up shop, by nature, is an ephemeral thing, one that, when done right, is capable of leaving a lasting impression. It’s other things, as well. At its most basic, it offers concepts a private turf — a temporary one, but a home, nevertheless. A pop-up store gives businesses an opportunity to crank their ideas to life, to show off their goods in real life. In other words, it puts a face to the name of brands that exist in the digital sphere. Sometimes, it even gives a young business a chance to experiment, to flirt with ideas and dip its toes in the water before jumping head-first into a new venture. Other times, a pop-up outlet is used as a tool to make a statement (A Boulder-based tech-fabric producer, for example, constructed a pop-up about 300 feet up the Bastille Wall for climbers passing through, in hopes of raising awareness and money for public lands access in 2017).
For eager shoppers wanting to be in the know, pop-ups are somewhat of a siren song. They create an air of excitement — this get-it-before-it’s-gone mentality (Or, as the cool kids call it, FOMO, aka the fear of missing out). In brick-and-mortar space, visitors can roam around the store, touch objects for a sense of quality and craftsmanship, talk to the brains behind the URL.
Regardless of the why, there’s no denying the power of the pop-up market, which, over the past couple of years, has undergone a serious, explosive growth. It also doesn’t come as a surprise that a slew of companies are already breaking new ground within this ecosystem. To illustrate, here’s a guide to superlative ideas and concepts that are making a big splash in this ready-to-rent arena.
1 — Co-retailing spaces
If you’ve been keeping tabs, you might already know that a sharing economy, spearheaded by giants like Uber and AirBnB, is very much all the rage right now. With that in mind, Poppir rolled out a new concept, dubbed “Poppir Place,” a co-retailing space designed with on-demand access for digitally native brands. Nestled smack-dab in the heart of Downtown Washington, D.C. — in a towering building boasting brass entry doors and 160 thirty-foot columns — the 1,500 square-foot space will play host to a rotating roster of businesses that can set up shop on a temporary basis. But in looking at the floor-to-ceiling windows, and the natural light spilling through them, and in perusing the interior, there’s more to the place than that. It’s a blank canvas, one that can be customized using the visual language of design, displays and, of course, products, to tell a brand’s story. For the consumer, it’s a hub for discovery, a place that offers a new menu of experiences every time you duck in for a visit. Today, a subscription service that offers personalized products online, might inhabit the space. Tomorrow, you might be introduced to a newly minted label, or an established digital brand looking for an offline gig. And it’s exactly that element of exploration that makes Poppir Place an exciting new venture in the industry.
2 — Dedicated spaces in shopping centers
There’s a reason why shoppers still put up with schlepping across packed parking lots and the inevitable question that follows at the end of the day (“Dude, where’s my car?”) The shopping mall experience, when done right, can prove to be a good place for entertainment. And pop-ups can play a huge role in that. Case in point: Back in 2018, Westfield Century City — a luxurious shopping center in Southern California — welcomed Kylie Cosmetics, a beauty company helmed by reality star and social media heavy-hitter, Kylie Jenner. The event lasted 18 days and drew a massive rush of shoppers. Now, the property brings in new concepts in a dedicated 1,000-square-foot space, which has seen brands like Hermès and Amazon, and even a mini Louis Vuitton museum dubbed the “LV Time Capsule.”
At the King of Prussia Mall in Pennsylvania, visitors were treated to premium (Read: three-dimensional, with the very same brush strokes as the originals) replicas of Van Gogh’s art, as a part of Van Gogh Museum Editions Pop-Up Tour. The event aimed to bring a little taste of Amsterdam’s treasures to the United States and raise money for educational programs. All to say, some folks cruise malls for familiar fixtures — Macy’s for a new set of bedding, Starbucks for your day’s caffeine fix — but others are taking advantage of the explore-something-new, pop-up environment brought on by the shopping mall’s tweaked format.
3 — Stores within stores
Sure, department stores aren’t what they used to be in their heyday, but there’s still something to be said about the buffet of options they offer to shoppers. With the changing retail climate, luxury department stores like Saks and Nordstrom are rolling up their collective sleeves and putting their spaces to good use. In the spirit of today’s sharing economy, they’re embracing the store-within-a-store concept, lending out corners of their spaces to businesses for short periods of time. Take, for example, Nordstrom, which hosts an ongoing series, dubbed Pop-In@Nordstrom, of pop-up shops curated by the store’s vice president of creative projects, Olivia Kim. Every month, the retailer dreams up a new theme — think: poolside glamour, ’90s raves and road trips, Paris — and showcases related products, designers and content. Inside Saks Fifth Avenue’s flagship store in New York City, there’s even a wellness center that accommodates pop-up fitness classes. But it’s not just department stores that are taking up this trend. On a smaller scale, Chicago-based Heritage Bicycles — purveyor of bikes and in-house-roasted coffee where you can get your flat fixed while sipping on a cuppa — often entertains customers with pop-ups by local businesses in their space (and sometimes inside a remodeled vintage van that’s parked in their patio area).
4 — Pop-ups on the move
From old warehouses to airport hangars, there’s really no shortage of nontraditional, limited-time-only digs both established companies and start-ups can settle into. And because of the flexibility that a pop-up can provide, brands are beginning to think outside the storefront-shaped box. Some resort to renting out campers vans, which enables them to show off their wares while make temporary stops at several cities across the country. This, of course, gives them an extra layer of flexibility to hunker down in high-traffic areas, but also helps drum up attention away from home. In January of 2018, for example, fashion powerhouse Louis Vuitton kicked off a series of traveling pop-up shops in a Volkswagen bus, just in time for the release of the brand’s SS18 Men’s campaign. (The bus was decorated with bold and colorful floral prints — a nod to the tropical island theme that permeates the collection.) What’s more, companies like Experiential Vehicles are even offering up trailer-based pop-ups, which, EV promises, can be assembled in merely 30 minutes by just one person. (They come in a variety of sizes and shapes, and “packaged with services for transport and training.”) Suffice to say, a mobile space is a great way to get the show on the road.
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