Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Howard’s Inner Circle No. 4: A Proliferation of Pop-Up and Virtual Brick-and-Mortar Stores

Here today and gone tomorrow. A strange philosophy for a store, but that is the case. A number of retail chains and those introducing new products are doing it in a big way to generate increased sales and media coverage

This holiday season Toys ‘R’ Us opened “pop-up stores ” in eighty shopping malls and added temporary toy departments in its Babies ‘R’ Us stores. Target has been doing it for a number of years. It opens up holiday pop-ups for fifty days offering some of its best-selling holiday products. As the Washington Post reports, “Products are displayed in windows, and shoppers mark their selections on the clipboard menu before bringing the order to a register to check out -- much like at a cafeteria. All stock is pre-wrapped and picked up next to the registers.

“The merchandise includes a Keurig mini coffee brewer for $89.99, a Liv Girls doll for $19.99 and a Sigg water bottle for $21.99.”

These pop—ups are usually opened up in high traffic areas such as Times Square in New York City. However, last year Reebok launched a pop-up shop at an art gallery. My favorite one is a Subway sandwich shop physically attached to the Freedom Tower as it is being built in its World Trade Center location in New York City. According to the New York Post, the sandwich shop is “fitted into a shipping container-like structure fixed to one of the tower cranes, alongside a bathroom and construction offices for the project managers.

“The concession stand will rise with the tower, eventually stopping near the 105th floor -- at roughly the height of the old Twin Towers.”

I expect this pop-up store trend to continue and expand going beyond national chains and those with new products. With so much retail space available, commercial retail landlords will find this option attractive. There also will be cottage industries including suppliers selling or renting display units that can be easily set up and taken down in minutes. Because of the high unemployment, there will be a ready workforce. Also expect the entry of franchisors offering turnkey pop-up store operations.

So don’t be surprised if you see a calendar store from October to December and stores geared to particular holidays only open for a month or two. It won’t be just for Christmas as you will have Halloween stores and stores for holidays only celebrated by certain cultures. Add to this mix, bicycle rental stores in the summer, and state tourism agencies opening up stores in adjoining states for a month to encourage tourism.

These pop-ups are often mobile in the form of vans and other vehicles moved from place to place preceded by advance publicity. Some pop-ups are basically showcases for a retailor’s Web site with limited products to sample and assisted kiosks allowing easy ordering and shipment to the store for pick-up if desired.

Brick-and-mortar retailing is undergoing a remarkable and rapid transformation as online retailing takes hold. This pop-up trend is just one of the ways it can survive and benefit the national chains and the individual entrepreneurs, formerly known as “the mom and pop store owners” with which many of us grew up and loved.

© 2009

For additional reading on the subject, check out:
The above is from the fourth issue of my newsletter, Howard’s Inner Circle, which periodically appears on the blog, “Instigator” at http://howardwolosky.blogspot.com/. It may be reproduced in full if that fact is stated and Howard Wolosky is given credit as the author.

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