The Retail Revolution- Pop-up shops now popping up in Shopping Centres

We are in the midst of a retail revolution. Customers are demanding more experiences and unique offerings and less of the department store feel. Out are the stuffy, basic shopping centres and in are the exclusive shops providing particular experiences and technology immersion. Anchor stores, a once coveted spot, are left vacant, forcing shopping centre owners to re-think their strategy and work to fill the empty spaces piling up. It’s a fight to stay relevant and impress shoppers with innovative experiences.

This last year has seen several announcements of middle to large department stores closing from the likes of Macy’s, GAP, and Office Depot. Even luxury brands such as Michael Kors are pairing back their store counts, realizing that overexposure does not always equal more profit. Shoppers no longer want the standard department store or luxury shop that can be found everywhere in the world. The allure of a luxury brand is exclusivity but if it’s too accessible, it loses that appeal. This movement is causing centre owners some financial pain. Shopping centres in the UK have seen a 2% drop in footfall since July of 2016. Shoppers are bored and as we are currently in a mostly trendless season, they have little incentive to go to a mall to fill their closets with things they already have. Shopping centre owners must find other offerings to bring customers back in and keep them.
Barbican in London

In a move to encourage pop-up shops to rent with them, big shopping centres such as Westfield Corp. and Simon Property Group are building “white box” stores. These stores will have a simple interior, able to transform for each brand that sets up there. These shopping centres in particular are allocating 5% of their leasable space to these places. Centres in Asia are doing even more to cash in on the pop-up store popularity. Hysan Bay in Hong Kong has hosted everything from a Nespresso pop-up shop to yoga classes hosted by Lululemon in an effort to get more people into the mall. Shopping centre owners are seeing the investment possibilities of these temporary shops.

People queue in a line at a Nutella pop-up shop in Hong Kong, China, on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2016. Photographer: Anthony Kwan/Bloomberg
People queue in a line at a Nutella pop-up shop in Hong Kong, China, on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2016. Photographer: Anthony Kwan/Bloomberg

These pop-up shops are changing the “shopping centre experience”; breathing new life into an old concept. Many shoppers are tired of seeing the same concept luxury brands everywhere as they have oversaturated the market, making what was once exclusive so interesting. As well as welcoming back the once regular shoppers, pop-up shops are bringing in new clientele. The Kanye West pop-up shop in Northbrook brought customers from out-of-town that normally wouldn’t even be in that city, with attendees claiming they had driven quite a distance to get there. Rotating pop-ups encourage shoppers to keep coming back to see something different. We’ve seen successful examples of these shops for both well-known and obscure brands, each approaching the concept in a different way. As rent prices and vacancies go up, we are sure to see more of these strategies in use.

Pop-up shops changing perception

Pop-up shops are often thought of as a trendy way for Indie brands to get their name out there on a tight budget, but that isn’t always the case. More and more we are seeing big name brands using pop-up shops to their advantage. While lesser known brands may use pop-ups to sell inventory and increase awareness, bigger brands are using them to provide customers with a unique experience, educate, and possibly change perception of their brand. Household names like eBay, Kate Spade, and Adidas are using pop-up shops to entice millennials with experiential shopping and some companies are using pop-ups to change customer perception of their brand.
  1. Fruit of the Loom recently did an experiment with a faux pop-up shop to show how much consumer’s perceptions matter. The underwear retailer created a fake brand, “Früt”, and displayed the brand as an upscale lingerie company. Only at the checkout did the company reveal to customers that the underwear they were shopping for was the low-cost, packaged, Fruit of the Loom. The goal was to show consumers that it’s what’s inside the package that matters. Fruit of the Loom was able to show that regardless of the fact that their product comes in packs of five and can be found at discount retailers, the quality and look could be mistaken for an expensive, high quality department store brand.
  2. Chobani is another example of a brand that used a pop-up to change customer perception. They found that while Europeans consider yogurt an ingredient for any meal, Americans only use it for breakfast. In order to change that perception, Chobani opened a café as well as several pop-up shops, that featured sweet and savoury meal choices using yogurt to show that it can be an ingredient used for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Their website even has recipes presenting new ways to use yogurt in your meal plans. In changing the way Americans think about yogurt and its many uses, they not only change perception but increase sales within its current customer base. For the largest seller of Greek yogurt in the United States, it’s a clever way to increase sales.

  3. European grocery chain, Lidl, was having trouble convincing customers that although they were a discount retail chain, their products were high quality. Consumers usually believe that you get what you pay for, high quality equals high prices, and their opinions were reinforced by the bare bones customer experience Lidl provided. To change this, the grocery retailer launched a pop-up restaurant, Dill (an anagram of Lidl) , in Stockholm for three weeks. Michelin star Chef Michael Wignall was in charge and ingredients only found from a Lidl store were used. The mantra, “good food doesn’t have to cost more”, manifested and became the theme for the pop-up. The restaurant was a hit and fully booked from day one. Consumers started to speak positively about the restaurant and the company, resulting in a change of perception of the goods Lidl sold.

    Because a pop-up shop can be used as an educational format, it is an ideal outlet for changing the way customers think about your company. Pop-ups use the five senses to engage customers and can change their opinion through unique experiences. A study found that 74% of consumers have a better opinion about a brand after an in-person event, such as a pop-up shop. When faced with a perception issue, try using the “show don’t tell” approach with a pop-up.

Five Reasons to go Pop-up

It’s a scary question for all brands just starting out, “What’s next?” You’ve had a successful run with online sales but it’s time to think about expanding and growing. Then the headaches come. “How much will rent be?” “Can I afford a place with a large footfall?” “What if I pick the wrong neighbourhood?” There are a million ways to go wrong and run your successful business into the ground. A pop-up shop is a great way to expand your business!

What are the benefits to doing a pop-up shop?

  1. Save rent money – Pop-ups allow you to rent out a space for a temporary period of time, saving you money by not being locked into a contract. With a cheaper rent, you’re able to spend your budget on creating a unique experience for your customers. Both brand and landlord can benefit from a pop-up store. Filling a location that isn’t making the landlord any money can be very helpful while they look for a more permanent
  2. Test out different locations/New variety of customers – Not all neighbourhoods are created equally. Researching locations and neighbourhoods is always helpful but sometimes reality doesn’t reflect the google description. Your hipster brand most likely won’t fit in too well in the family oriented neighbourhood. Aren’t you glad you only rented the venue for the weekend! What better way to test the perfect location than to experience it first-hand? 
  3. Shop sharing – For those brands that don’t need a full space, shop sharing can be a great option. If you have a small amount of inventory, a few shelves or a corner of a store is more than enough space. Shop sharing can also expand your customer base by introducing your brand to people who are already shopping in your shop share location. You may also find the perfect brand pairing. Your wine tastings may be just what the customers in a specialty olive oil shop are missing. Pairing brands can help you find synergy with other companies and could lead to future projects together. Shop sharing is also great because you have built-in employees. Being present in the store every day isn’t always a feasible option, but through shop sharing there is someone ready to run the store.

    The Dry Goods Store London, UK
  4. Meet customers in person – Emailing can only get you so far when it comes to getting to know your customers personally. There’s value for brand owners to have face to face interaction with customers and allowing those customers to interact with the products in a way they can’t experience online. In store shopping is all about the human experience. Ninety-four percent of total retail sales are still generated in brick-and-mortar stores and having a physical presence could help drive business to your online store. It’s a great way to market and advertise your online business in a simpler and less expensive way than online advertising.

    TopShop pop-up from Covalent Marketing
  5. Create an urgency – What makes you click “order cart” faster than seeing the sale ends at midnight or the store is almost out of stock? A temporary shop creates that same urgency to purchase or attend. Nothing is more exclusive or sells tickets faster than having a supper club available for just one night. Customers are experiencing a once in a lifetime event and creating that fear of missing out is sure to bring crowds.

Wondering how to get started? We Are Pop Up provides the ability to book full locations, shop share locations, and enables brand-to-brand communication. Register your brand or location at and get started on the pop-up of your dreams!

Food: The Experiential Movement

We’ve all done it, posted an Instagram photo of that carbonara you’re about to dig into, spent hours waiting for a table at the hottest new restaurant in town, or just gotten lost in the vortex that is Pinterest looking for a new recipe to try. Food. We love to eat it, post about it, and we spend most of the day thinking about what our next meal will be. As of 2014, 50% of millennials consider themselves to be foodies. What is it about food that makes it more than just a means of survival?

As millennials, we are all about the experience. We don’t want just a basic transaction between a business and a customer, we want creativity and novelty and to feel like we have had a memorable moment in our lives with that experience. We are also looking for communal experiences. Having a connection to the people around us is important, we don’t care if it’s with strangers or friends. About 55% of millennials prefer communal tables as opposed to private seating. The food movement is really a communitarian movement says author of several foodie books, Michael Pollan. We want to be involved and present with everyone and everything when enjoying our meal.

About 80% of millennials want to know more about how their food is grown and will spend more on ethically sourced meats and farm-to-table experiences. It is for this reason that community is an integral part in the investment we have in every step of the process when it comes to our food. We want to know where it came from, if it’s processed, and even how happy the pig was that is now bacon on your plate. What’s better than when the waiter sets butter on table and lets you know it was locally sourced from a farm down the road, was churned in the restaurant and the cow’s name is Betsey? Or when the Chef who just created the beef tartare you’re munching on, comes by to introduce himself? A deep connection with the food is made when we know all of the information.

Pop-up restaurants and food trucks are a large source of experiential dining. Theme Night? Kale Craze? All possible to experiment with when you’re taking over an abandoned warehouse or “space 12” in a parking lot. It also breeds a feeling of exclusivity. Scored tickets for that secret supper club? Time to let Facebook and your friends know how much you’re enjoying your meal that they will never be able to get. Millennial diners have major FOMO (fear of missing out) and 72% have said when they see posts of friends dining out, they wish they could be there with them. Hashtag jealous?

Gone are the days of frozen meals and mystery meat. Here to stay, at least for now, is a communal experiential movement. To all those brave enough to host, good luck keeping us entertained.