How retailers are cashing in on the pop-up phenomenon

While retailers are well versed in making their stores interesting and welcoming, the popup store phenomenon – that’s been here for a decade so far and looking like continuing – with its short lifespan and limited budget can bring a whole new set of challenges to effectively promoting a brand, says Stuart Geekie

As a result of the largely universal need to shop, whether for a new outfit or simply a pint of milk, retailers continually strive to ensure that their stores offer an interesting and welcoming atmosphere. Within this, brand identity is key. This encompasses all aspects of the retail experience, from the way products are actually displayed to the prominence of a company name or logo being visible in the store.

The look and feel of a store can make or break a brand. While it is important to make customers feel comfortable, creating an identity is equally important, especially in what has become such a competitive environment. Retailers are well established at recreating a consistent feel across their estates, with design plans, set specifications and an established supply chain facilitating a uniform approach. However, with more retailers now embracing the concept of pop-up shops this brings with it different challenges, in terms of balancing brand ideals with a budget more aligned to a fit-out of a temporary store.

Indications are that the pop-up shop phenomenon will continue to spread. Providing the opportunity to target customers with a specific collection, such as a tried-and-tested clothing line or, in many cases, an entirely new product, pop-up shops allow retailers to 'test the water' in a relatively low-risk way. This can be of benefit for both the larger, better-known retailer as well as the small independent looking to gain that all-important headway in what may have historically been a tough market to crack.

Looking at the industry as a whole, pop-up shops have actually been around now for more than 10 years helping retailers to test, or take advantage of, opportunistic selling. However, recent moves by the Government in relation to pop-up shops specifically will make it even easier to take advantage of 'flash retailing'.

Secretary of State for Communities Eric Pickles recently unveiled plans to help reduce the red tape that affects high-street planning, scrapping restrictions that hinder the change of usage for pop-up shops. This also comes at the same time as a guide, published by the Government, looks at how to make town centres a more social experience.

Supporting these plans is the extensive Portas Review, which looked closely at the current market, upcoming trends and the need to supply retailers with even more opportunities. Retail marketing consultant Mary Portas, author of the review, has also backed plans for more pop-ups to help drive increased footfall and thereby boosting the overall high-street experience.

With such information coming to light, senior representatives from retail, banking, property and local governments have also come together to create a new movement - the Distressed Retail Property Taskforce - which will also look to find ways to rejuvenate failing town centres around the country.

All great stuff - but for designers and estate managers 'pop-up' certainly can't mean haphazard. They can actually present a greater challenge to fit out, as inevitably the budget will be much smaller due to a shorter payback time while the look and feel of the store still needs to effectively reflect the brand. This is where retailers need to box clever and work with suppliers that offer more flexible, innovative solutions that are both cost effective and environmentally sound - waste is another major consideration for those retailers striving to meet ambitious sustainability targets.

From our side, fit-out suppliers need to be looking for answers outside of the traditional model, which offer retailers the ability to call in high-quality fixtures and fittings that meet their needs within short lead times. Sustainability also has to be at the heart of the offer, with a sound methodology for reducing waste - and all of this has to be achieved within a budget suitable to a temporary store.

Much can be learned from successful pop-ups in terms of how they have been presented to the consumer. Delivering a new and exciting shopping experience can help attract added attention to an otherwise downtrodden high street. In fact, the publicity gained via word-of-mouth recommendation, something that is inevitable when anything new comes to town, is a valuable asset for the retailer and is there to be capitalised.

The new proposals put forward should, in theory, make it easier for retailers to test the water with pop-ups - but only if suppliers step up to the mark by providing flexible solutions that are cost effective but don't compromise the brand.

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