Can a Pop-Up Store Make Your Brand ... Pop?


Pop-up stores open in retail locations for a set period of time - could be a day or a few months – and they are becoming an increasingly appealing way for businesses to drum up some brand buzz while boosting revenue. It also doesn’t hurt that there’s an abnormally large amount of vacant real estate to choose from thanks to the economy (If you’re wondering just what’s going on with the economy, check this out).

“For a small or big store, pop-up retail offers consumers a sense of urgency and human nature responds to that,” says Alexandra Sotereanos, a senior manager with retail consultancy McMillan Doolittle in Chicago.

The Gap (Stock Quote: GPS) last year opened a pop-up of France’s trendy Colette boutique inside its 5th avenue store and only sold Colette goods at that location for a month. Soon thereafter, the U.S. Potato Board opened a four-day store in Times Square last Thanksgiving that touted the nutritional value of spuds.

It’s a concept that’s not just for big businesses. New York accessories designer Matthew Waldman this week wrapped up his first pop-up experience, calling the six-week store a “great success.”

Waldman launched Nooka in December 2005 focusing on wristwatches, but never opened his own brick-and-mortar shop. His goods were a hit and now can be found in boutiques in New York, Tokyo, France, the Netherlands and many Nordstrom’s department stores.

When Waldman recently branched out into belts, wallets and a fragrance line, he decided a pop-up shop would give him an opportunity to control the look and feel of his brand – an experience he couldn’t control by selling in other stores.

“We needed a space that was going to create a brand environment and offer an experience of all of our products as a cohesive brand,” he told

A business consultant that was helping him with Nooka’s new product line launch suggested Den, a pop-up space run by Manhattan boutique Odin. The match was made. Nooka, which has eight full-time employees and $1.7 million in revenue, secured a profit while gaining exposure to a new crowd. Odin in essence “invited” Nooka to its pop-up space and Waldman simply had to cover the costs of Odin’s staff running the store.

Matt Gatti, executive director of the Washington-based Retail and Advertising Marketing Association, says he’s seen all kinds of business relationships when it comes to pop-up retail. Some small firms pay a premium to lease some prime real estate, but “a larger store may just want the smaller firm to come in and drive traffic and let the business have the space for free as long as it’s providing something new to customers,” he says.

In today’s ailing economy, there’s a lot of available space to rent. “It’s not so hard to get a great deal for a short period of time,” he advises, and it doesn’t lock a business owner into a long-term lease and it can be a worthwhile marketing expense.

That expense may pay off in multiple ways. The pop-up gave Nooka an “amazing amount of online blog press, which was great exposure,” says Waldman, adding that it helped that the store was launched during a week when many accessory buyers were in the city.

Waldman says the experience helped him learn what works in a retail environment and now understands his customers better. Additionally, he realized that the Nooka brand sells in boutiques catering to tourists and he needed to be more aggressive about marketing his brand to New Yorkers.

“It’s a great affordable way to dip your toes into retail,” he says.

He plans to recreate the experience in Tokyo this fall.

Gatti says popups have been a trend during the past couple of years, but the concept “is no where near the end of its lifecycle. It’s a great idea to test new styles and try out a new market.”

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