pop-up comes of age

Over the past ten years, we have grown accustomed to an average of 10,000 pop-up stores springing up annually on our high streets. Each new store morphs what we understand pop-up to be, with the result that the original concept, connected at the time mostly with emergent fashion brands, is now just a distant memory. ‘pop-up’ has now fully come of age and gone mainstream.

The Telegraph revealed recently that almost a third of new businesses launched in the UK over the next two years will start life as a pop-up and reminded us that UK burger chain Meatliquor, now valued at £20m, started life in various car parks and vacant lots with just a van and a Twitter account. Like most successful brands, they happened to hit the zeitgeist but their success is not just inspiring a new generation of entrepreneurs, it is also putting some fire in the belly of more established brands who are also hoping to catch the wave.

The line between pop-ups and traditional retail has all but disappeared and yesterday’s transient and sassy retail concept has now become a central plank in the strategy of the biggest brand names. The benefits are obvious, pop-up stores, by their temporary nature, have a novelty value and are often seen as an edgy accompaniment to the main brand or as an attempt to ‘reach out’ to the customer. They also provide a good venue to break new ideas and products and remain flavour of the month with the press.
One established global brand that has used the concept to great effect is Foot Locker, which employed a pop-up strategy to evolve and define their Sidestep brand. Sidestep launched three pop-ups in Europe, made from a ‘kit of parts’ that could be re-jigged to suit customer preferences, a fine tuning strategy that allowed the store to act as a retail lab, in which design and presentation could be changed to suit customer behaviours and needs.

Foot Locker followed on from this activity by building the same flexibility into their new Runners Point stores across Europe. Pop-up is now a profitable vehicle for bringing innovative retail experiences to life, and the names we see popping up around us are getting bigger. With brands like Foot Locker, Marc Jacobs, Louis Vuitton and Nokia investing in the trend, we are perhaps only at the beginning of the pop-up revolution.

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