Passing Trend or Future Proof: The Truth About Pop-Up Shops

These days, where there are crowds of eager shoppers, there is likely a pop-up shop. These temporary storefronts have been on the rise since the early 2000s—and not just in the retail industry. Pop-up restaurants, bars, concerts, workspaces, and even cat cafes have achieved a strong footing in today’s competitive market, yet it’s in the retail sector that the concept truly thrives.

The pop-up shop industry is valued at $50 billion. While pop-ups offer an attractive opportunity for e-commerce retailers, their more traditional brick-and-mortar counterparts can tend to be a little wary of the growing trend. The question for these retailers is whether pop-up shops are a transient fad or a long-term addition to the retail landscape. In other words, what do retailers with a physical storefront have to gain?

What Makes Pop-Up Shops So Popular?

From the consumer's perspective, pop-up shops offer something novel and exclusive. Shoppers have access to a curated selection of goods offered up in a unique setting staffed by friendly experts. The innate characteristics of a pop-up shop—that it’s open for a limited period of time and accessible only to knowledgeable insiders—create a sense of excitement that appeals to consumers looking for something unique.

From the e-commerce retailer's perspective, pop-up shops are a particularly useful marketing tool. Since many people like to try before they buy, pop-up shops give interested consumers a chance to experience an exclusively online brand’s product without having to commit to a purchase. From a brand’s point-of-view, the pop-up shop provides an opportunity to connect with more customers in a short period of time without having to sign a long-term shop lease or sacrifice their identity as an online only company. Plus, a pop-up shop comes with a natural urgency factor, so they are likely to benefit from a slew of customers—particularly millennials—who don’t want to miss out on this exclusive experience.


Is Pop-Up Retail Here to Stay?

Brick-and-mortar stores aren’t fading into obscurity as many predicted, but retailers are still looking to evolve this tried-and-true strategy. As retail leases become wholly unaffordable, online stores become more and more attractive. Commercial landlords seem to be taking note though, with many offering more short-terms leases available. This could lead to both new and established retailers increasingly considering the low-investment, low-risk potential of a pop-up shop as a viable alternative to a permanent location.

That said, it is not necessarily a one-or-the-other arrangement: some brands have been able to capitalize off both the in-store and pop-up shop experiences. Not only do pop-ups give consumers a new and novel way to buy, but they do it in an engaging physical setting rather than on an impersonal digital platform. Brands who use pop-up shops as a way to promote and exhibit their latest product releases can create a buzz about their offerings and then direct excited customers to their permanent storefront down the line. Plus, with today's consumers preferring customization and individuality, pop-up shops satisfy a growing demand, hinting at a sustainable business model.

Brick-and-mortar retailers should not view pop-up shops as a threat, nor should they consider them to be a simple passing trend not worth their time. Rather, they should view pop-ups as confirmation that discovering, handling, and purchasing goods in person is still important for consumers. When malls incorporate a host of rotating pop-up shops, consumers have a tempting reason to return, providing permanent stores with an opportunity to attract new foot traffic. As such, pop-up shops can be as beneficial to brick-and-mortar retailers as they are to e-commerce brands. Retailers who look beyond their own four walls can give their brands a fresh image and better connect with new customers. Better still, they can do it all without having to reinvent the wheel.


In the age of amazon, pop-up shops are just one way specialty retailers can still compete and win against their big-box competitors. With the right retail technology at your back, success is right around the corner. 

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Photo Credits: Shuttertock / Tooykrub, Shutterstock / NYCStock, Shutterstock / Shootdiem