Temporary stores pop-up in recent years more frequently in different retail locations such as central shopping districts (e.g., on high-streets or inside urban quarters) and in malls; as you might expect, they are called Pop-Up Stores. These stores or shops may operate for as short as a few days to as long as two or three months to serve focused and well-specified business purposes. Pop-up stores may prove especially useful to small as well as large retailers during the economic downturn invoked by the Corona pandemic, and more so for dealing with the greater uncertainty that ensues for both businesses and consumers.
The following are principal objectives that pop-up stores can effectively help to accomplish in regular times:
- A pop-up store can be used as a temporary venue in a high-profile location for introducing a new product concept, creative design or innovative technology. The consumers are given a chance to familiarise and interact first-hand with the product in a store wholly dedicated to that purpose, staffed with personnel committed to demonstrate, explain and give guidance to the visitors-shoppers whenever requested.
- A pop-up store can be employed as a stage for producing an experiential, engaging and inspiring occasion for consumers to meet with a brand. It may be useful in particular for introducing or even trying a new brand concept, having a new design, symbols, marketing or service approach. Nonetheless, creating a more emotionally-moving or thought-provoking experience can also be combined well with introduction of a new product concept (see 1 above). When staged for a limited time, as a special event, the opportunity for a less usual experience could induce in consumers a feeling popularly known as FOMO — Fear of Missing Out.
- A pop-up store gives an opportunity for e-commerce retailers to get in direct and close touch with consumers in a physical place, to elevate awareness and stimulate sales. Retailing in brick-and-mortar stores is alive and kicking, and it still holds some advantages in contact with shoppers over online-first retailers; a pop-up store makes a way for the latter to cut the distance from consumers if only for a short while.
- A retail chain may open a temporary pop-up store in locations where it does not have presence on a regular basis (e.g., smaller cities, countryside towns). Through a pop-up store or shop the retailer becomes more easily accessible to residents, in an unmediated way, for a limited time; local consumers can get better acquainted with the chain’s brand and products, increasing awareness, and possibly also attachment.
- A pop-up store may be opened to test the market in a new location, assessing acceptance and interest in its product offerings or concept, before choosing to open a permanent store. Notably, a pop-up store meant to be operated temporarily, for a purpose as in 4 above, may turn out to be such a success it encourages the retailer to open a permanent store in that location (i.e., 4 acts ad-hoc as 5).
- A pop-up store may be opened in specific periods. For instance, the additional store may serve to highlight a new seasonal collection, displaying it in a form of an exhibition or a show. The store may otherwise be employed to present separately a collection that is more daring and less typical to the creative design of a fashion name. A pop-up store may also be dedicated to offerings traditionally accustomed for a holiday season (most famously for Christmas and Easter). Retailers also seem to set-up pop-up stores to sell-off excessive inventory they are left with at the end of season, but that does not necessarily take real advantage of this retailing concept.
In more difficult times as in the recession following the Corona pandemic, a pop-up store can assist retailers as a practical tool for taking a more measured action at lower risk and cost. In order words, a retailer may ‘test the waters’ of the market with a pop-up store to see if consumers are ready for buying again in a specific product domain before undertaking a longer and more financially demanding commitment. The objective is more modest than in executing or just experimenting with more innovative product ideas or brand concepts (e.g., similar to 1 or 2 above). It is apparently closer to testing a new location (i.e., as in 5).
Taking this approach may be helpful nowadays to larger retailers that consider expanding again and recovering lost locations, but it could be furthermore essential for small and medium retail businesses, particularly those who were forced to close down a previous store and plan to return. The pop-up store may be a tool for assessing the right time and location for a full return. It may be tried with a smaller shop (i.e., area < 100sqm) and a one-time stock acquired or made for the trial.
Proprietors should also benefit from allowing retailers to take this path with short-term leases while the pandemic-related recession prolongs. As more stores and shops continue to close down, and retail business owners stay reluctant to rent vacant spaces for normal periods to open new or recovered stores, it might be better-off economically for the owners of the real-estate asset to fill the slow period with short-term leases than leaving the property vacant for an extended period.
The appropriate and justifiable level of investment in the interior design and furnishing of a pop-up store seems to be a sensitive issue. For a retailer aiming to create a more experiential venue, a greater investment in creative design and its set-up could pay off in the buzz and hype in sales produced in the concentrated period of time (e.g., two months). At the lower end, a retailer may settle with the decoration and fixtures left behind by the previous user of the store space, if it is not too unfitting the image of the incoming retailer. More generally, there should be a great advantage to utilising decorative and display equipment that can be easily assembled and set-up in the store (e.g., modular), and then disassembled and folded-up perhaps for re-use in another location.
The concept of pop-up stores offers multiple possibilities of using it for different purposes. Retailers can make good use of some of the possibilities a pop-up store entails to help them in facing the risks and constraints associated with the recession brought about by the Corona pandemic. It is an opportunity worth considering if it can help them re-establish or re-invigorate their retail business.
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