chapter 8

Pop-Ups & The Future of Retail

Pop-up shops are here to stay and they’re fueling the retail revolution occurring as we speak. Consumers today having comparative pricing data right on their phones and are actively shopping around even as they browse retail stores. Whether it’s the phenomena of “showrooming” where consumers go into stores to physically see a product only to buy it online at the lowest price, or that of “webrooming” where consumers walk into a store having thoroughly done all their research and know exactly what they want, shopping is changing at a rapid pace.

Bridging the online and offline gap is a necessary next step for small businesses to thrive in today’s economy. Retailers who don’t have an ecommerce site are selling themselves short just like how successful ecommerce merchants are missing out opportunities that selling offline could provide.

Pop-ups are the perfect avenue for online stores to make flash appearances and get customers they couldn’t reach before to connect with them in-person and if done properly, have them become intrigued enough to follow them online.   

In fact, when you take things into consideration, despite the fact that ecommerce sales grew 5 percent to roughly $65 billion in 2013, it's still a sliver of total retail sales. Actually, we're talking less than a sliver, more like only 5.8 percent out of a $1,126.2 billion market just in the U.S. alone. Pop-up shops alone according to Retail Specialists are a $8 billion market.

So, regardless of where you fall on the spectrum when it comes to selling exclusively online or in-store or are somewhere in the middle with a mix of sales channels, pop-ups can be that perfect opportunity to try something different and cash in.

To illustrate how brands small and big are taking advantage of temporary retail, I’ve highlighted the pop-up activities of well-known brands Bonobos and Warby Parker in addition of brands with a more niche but massive following that include the likes of KithNY and HutchLA.

2 Big Brands Making Pop-Up Waves

Bonobos: Taking the Leap


Started by two Stanford business grads in 2007 by selling what it dubbed simply a “perfect” pair of khakis, Bonobos has grown to become a ecommerce heavyweight with their hands in a number of men’s products lines. Despite the company's massive online success, CEO Andy Dunn wanted to experiment with physical retail spaces after repeated requests from customers who wanted to try on items before they buy them. So just what did he do? He posted two sales representatives in the lobby of their office showcasing their products and found them generating more than $250,000 in sales each.

After seeing those results, his solution to the "online vs. offline conundrum" was the Guide Shop, a place where prospective customers could make an appointment, try on their wares, place an order online, and have their purchased goods delivered the very next day. Today the company has more 10 locations across the U.S. where they deliver a seamless and vertically integrated shopping experience.

But you don't need to splurge on a permanent retail location or expensive POS technology to give your customers the "Guide Shop" experience, consider these much more accessible locations and open a pop-up shop to start testing the waters with as as little as an iPad or your mobile phone.

Warby Parker: Going to Your Customers

Originally started as a online only eyewear business in 2010, Warby Parker has leveraged ecommerce to its fullest potential by designing everything in house and cutting out the middlemen to offer its high quality products at significantly lower prices.

However, the company has never been afraid to experiment with pop-up stores and satisfying peoples desires to try and feel their glasses before making a purchase. True to its brand, the company’s latest retail adventure called “Class Trip” involved driving a big yellow bus across America and stopping in select cities to set up shop. Another avenue Warby Parker has attempted are kiosks in hotels it calls “The Readery” where it pairs its 1960’s look to its glasses with vintage books and periodicals from the era. It shows no sign of slowing down its retail experiments anytime soon.

Inspired to take your business on the road? Check out some tips from our "50 Ways to Your First Sale" guide and you'll be well on your way to starting your engine to grow your business.

2 Smaller Brands Doing Pop-Up Magic

HutchLA: Keeping It Real

Streetwear apparell is big in LA, where everyone is after the latest and exclusive designs from their favourite artists and to support different movements, interests, and values. It’s no surprise then that HutchLA, founded by Grizzly Atoms, decided to take its dedicated audience and loyal customers of its online store and treat them to a pop-up shop experience to remember. The company sells unique designs on posters, prints, t-shirts and more.

Not only did they blitz their Instagram feed with photos of them building and renovating the actual store to build buzz, but they went all out for the actual one-day event to make it successful. The secret sauce behind it all was having a really good idea of who their target demographic was and what type of add-ons they’d be attracted to.  So, what did they do to make it feel like a must-attend, exclusive, and limited-time event? Well, to start with they had guys from the Hit+Run Crew printing one-of-a-kind t-shirts live, next they had a tattoo artists onsite, limited-edition products from distinct artists and brands like Cryptic that people would wait in line to get their hands on, as well as plenty of food and drinks from popular and local restaurants.

Top it off with a beautiful sunny day in August and the end result is an extravagant and memorable shopping experience that further solidified HutchLA’s place in the minds of its most loyal customers while exposing their brand to their friends from all the social sharing that took place that day.

KithNY: Taking on Paris

With an established brand and a well-known figure in the sneaker world like Ronnie Fieg manning the helm, KITH has a sneakerhead following that expands the globe. The company has a popular storefront in one of the hottest shopping districts in New York and has an ecommerce store that ships its sneakers around the world.

So then why go all the way to Paris to do a pop-up shop? Simple, to give their following in Europe an opportunity to connect with the brand in-person and do it in style. Dubbed the KITH Coat of Arms (COA) Pop-Up, it coincided with Paris Fashion Week, and brought with it exclusive products KITH developed via collaboration with partners like PUMA, John Elliot + Co, ISAORA and Focused Space. The key idea being to bring together sneaker enthusiasts around the city together to celebrate what makes them unique, their love for sneakers.

Lastly, Have Fun Popping-Up

As you’ve seen, you don’t need to be a household brand to connect with customers and followers in the real world. All you need is a willingness to see the opportunity in taking advantage of all the ways pop-ups can open door for your business. The gap between the online and offline world is decreasing at a rapid pace and just like any other industry, retail is trying to keep pace with the way consumers and their shopping habits are evolving. Pop-ups are just one piece of the puzzle that will continue to become a bigger and bigger part of lives, with that, we hope you found this guide practical, informative, and inspiring. Here’s to creating pop-up experiences that customers can’t help but fall in love with. Good luck and happy selling!

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