For a while now, retailers have been launching temporary stores or pop-ups to drive sales and increase market awareness. Many of us remember the 1.0 version of these stores taking over an abandoned Best Buy or Borders in the weeks leading up to Halloween. The store would open in the existing footprint with little to no structural improvements except a few peg boards, dark drapes, and spooky characters placed around the store. They have now become a permanent fixture of the Halloween scene; allowing landlords with vacancies to generate some extra revenue and a niche store chain to cost effectively come to life across the country for a limited time.

Recently we have witnessed the birth of Pop-Up Stores 2.0, led primarily by a number of high flying e-commerce pure plays hoping to drive market awareness. Temporarily retro-fitting a store to match the look and feel of the brand and running a series of high profile events to draw customers into the stores to experience the brand first hand. Some of these were even executed with temporary or mobile structures like Warby Parker's Yellow School Bus Tour.

Interestingly, these e-commerce players in their quest to drive customers to shop online discovered that a number of them could also make money with a physical retail store. As such we now see brands using the opening of a pop-up as a method to test where to locate a permanent store. I speak from personal experience, as The Tie Bar just celebrated its one-year anniversary of what was supposed to be a pop-up and is now permanent store in Chicago. The first store was such a hit that we just opened temporary locations in New York and Washington, D.C.

The temporary store concept appears here to stay and has become part of the modern marketing and development tool kit for brands around the world. Thinking that opening a pop-up is the way to go for your brand? Then here are my top five things to consider when opening your own pop-up store:

  1. Know your objective. Pop-ups for marketing and awareness generation are often very different than those designed to test a market for a potential permanent store. It can be a challenge to try and do both. Market awareness objectives will require you to run a series of events and promotions to drive customers into the store and learn about the brand. In contrast, if you are testing for a permanent location, having too many events in a short time frame will skew the results high and you may not accurately learn if the location can support your store economics (at steady state marketing).
  2. Let your objective drive your location decision. Beyond the obvious of whether a location fits with your target customers, consider if you need to be in a prime traffic location or not. For example, if you are going for marketing bang and will be programming events to drive awareness, you may not need to be on the prime corner. This will matter because pop-up locations by their nature are few and often you will only have a few options in a given area.
  3. Let your objective drive when and for how long you operate. Market awareness is often a greater bang in a short period of time. Testing a location requires a long enough period of time to get a real feel for the traffic and general brand reception beyond the initial newness factor.
  4. How much to spend fixing up the space. This has a lot to do with your brand and market positioning. The more luxury or critical your brand look and feel is, the more you will likely want to allocate to buildout.
  5. Co-tenancy matters. The old adage, you are judged by the company you keep, holds true for your pop-up location. This is true both when considering to go into an urban retail location or an in-line mall. What other retails are located around you is extremely important and should not be overlooked. Do your research or this may come back to haunt you later on.

Only you can truly decide to take the plunge and will likely always have varying hesitation around the uncertainty of whether it's the right decision for your brand. While the overall success of a pop-up can fall on all parts of the spectrum, utilizing the proper research and planning before-hand will help ensure the accomplishment of your bottom line objectives and increase potential for the pop-up to take your brand to the next level.

Published on: Nov 5, 2015
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