Pop-up stores – how they work, what do they offer?

Pop-up shops may come and go, but the concept is here to stay. A decade on from when America’s first temporary retail space appeared in Los Angeles, California, an idea that was initially viewed as something of a novelty is now an accepted and increasingly sophisticated part of the Australian retail landscape.

In the early days, pop-up shops were mainly used as a way to re-invigorate tired retail precincts, but today even large shopping centres are using short-term leases as a way to stay fresh and vibrant.

Another trend is for online retailers to augment their internet-based offering with pop-up shops. They provide an affordable bricks and mortar presence that allows the retailers to connect with customers in a more personal way than through an online experience.

Popup Brands helps big and small brands, start-ups, artists and entrepreneurs connect with short-term commercial space. It is an online marketplace for a range of commercial spaces such as retail, shopping centre malls, and building foyers for exclusive brand activation, as well as market, festival and event pop-up opportunities.

The company’s Founder, Marianella Watman, believes that short-term events and stores add to the ever-changing city landscape and urban living.

“It’s an exciting time for retail, as well as for any growing business looking to create unique experiences in the cities where its customers are,” says Marianella.

And the market agrees – in just one year, Popup Brands has grown to offer over 1,000 pop-up retail spaces for a huge variety of brands. Last year the business helped Etsy with its first pop-up store in Australia and worked with many other high profile names like Bailey Nelson and Joe Button. Another high profile assignment was finding a location for Australian-owned boutique wine business Cake Wines to find a location for its winter pop-up bar in Melbourne.

“We’re big believers in right place right time retailing,” says Marianella. “Shopping is seasonal, yet traditional commercial leasing and retail infrastructure often ignores this. Retailers struggle in the down-season and are forced to discount, eroding their earnings from peak periods.

“We are helping to fix this broken business model by letting brands and retailers fish where and when the fish are biting!”

Marianella says Popup Brands is currently helping a number of online brands or first-time virgin brands that have never had a bricks and mortar store to find a pop-up location.

“Pascale Helyar-Moray, Founder of StyleRocks, is a great example,” Marianella explains. “StyleRocks is a customisable jewellery business that started out as a pure play e-commerce business. What they’ve discovered over time is that there is a need to have some form of physical presence, so that people can try on and feel the jewellery.

“This is where popping comes in,” Marianella continues. “It’s really important for customers to understand that this is bespoke fine jewellery, not $20 items from a high street store. In addition, people tend to have lots of questions about jewellery – how it is made, where the gemstones come from, how long the wait time is.”

Pascale agrees. “Popping not only gives customers a physical experience but the opportunity to ask lots of questions, and StyleRocks certainly sees the results,” she says. “Our conversion rate after an event is always strong, and people purchase higher valued pieces as well.”

It’s important for any brand – from fashion to technology to digital – to create an amazing retail experience and tell a story around its products.

“Pop-up shops allow online businesses to build stronger relationships offline and provide a tactile customer experience,” says Marianella. “And they also provide the flexibility to move around different areas or to go from city to city, without signing long-terms five or 10-year leases.”

Another alternative is a shop-in-shop opportunity, where a retailer hosts another brand in its store. “The retailer gains fresh new foot-traffic to its store thanks to the other brand,” Marianella explains. “A great example is the Ariel Bookstore in Paddington, which invites complementary brands to pop in.”

In such a fast-paced industry, Popup Brands must continually evolve to keep up with the market. Marianella points to a recent deal with PayPal Here, a simple way to accept credit and debit card payments through your iPhone, iPad or most Android devices, using the PayPal Hereapp, the PayPal Here Chip and PIN card reader. The facility allows you to get paid wherever your customers are, a real plus for pop-up retailers.

“We’ve reached an agreement with PayPal entitling our Popup Brands members to special transaction rates and a reduced price on thePayPal Here Chip and PIN card reader,” said Marianella.

“Once you sign up to Popup Brands and then apply and are approved for a PayPal merchant account, you’re free to use your Paypal Here for your business beyond just your pop-up activities – wherever your customers are.”

Another new service is Popup Brands’ profile pages. This gives brands the opportunity to build their pop-up online profile and information about where they’ll be popping next. This history helps landlords to understand the nature of the brand and to identify ways they may be able to work together.

This feature was originally published in the December 2014 print issue of My Business.