Experiences. That’s what retailers have to sell today to keep their brick-and-mortar shops thriving, at least according to the experts. But what is experiential retail, really?
A new report from Cushman & Wakefield argues that the seemingly humble pop-up store is a prime example.
As the name suggests, pop-up stores pop up, they show up briefly, usually to promote a new product or business line, and then disappear again. Their temporary nature makes them exciting, and often draws big crowds. Both big and small brand names have dipped into the pop-up experience to boost their sales or launch a new product line.
Cushman & Wakefield in its special report on pop-up stores – titled Pop-Up-A-Palooza – says that pop-up stores today feature some of the most interesting retail innovations. As the report says, if you want a clue as to what some of the top tenants of tomorrow will be, you should study the pop-up space today.
Traditionally, pop-up stores sprang up around the holidays. Think Hickory Farms selling sausage and cheese from pop-up stores every Christmas. Cushman & Wakefield said that Hickory Farms will run about 650 pop-ups this year, mostly in the form of mall kiosks.
Halloween has also been a big time for pop-up stores. Cushman & Wakefield said that about 2,500 pop-up Halloween stores opened across the United States in 2019 compared to 1,400 10 years ago.
Today, though, pop-ups are not just for holidays. Cushman & Wakefield tracked more than 300 pop-ups since 2018 in the New York City market alone. Only a small number of these spaces were seasonal.
In this new age of pop-ups, a growing number of retailers are attempting to create experiences, drawing big crowds by unveiling new flavors or products, building excitement over their brand.
A look across the Midwest shows how strong the pop-up trend has become. In Detroit, for instance, Kaydense Galleria opened its own pop-up, while in Indianapolis the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis opened a pop-up shop devoted to selling unicorn-themed merchandise. Minneapolis saw a pop-up location for Ichigo Tokyo Crepes and LEGO, while in Nashville, Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop health line opened its own pop-up location.
A particularly creative pop-up use? Minneapolis-based creative agency Solve created a portable, small-scale replica of its office. The company then took its “5-Minute Internship” pop-up to several universities as a way to find and attract new talent.
Big-name retailers are turning to pop-ups, too. Cushman & Wakefield points to Macy’s, which in 2018 purchased retailer Story, which changes its gift offerings throughout the year. In 2019, Macy’s said that it would open 36 pop-up Story locations within existing Macy’s stores across the country.
Online cosmetics company Birchbox recently launched a partnership with Walgreen’s in which it opened pop-ups in select store locations. Cushman & Wakefield said that Birch Box planned to open 500 new Walgreen’s pop-up stores throughout the 2019 holiday season.
For a more experiential pop-up, look at Toys ‘R’ Us Adventure, a pop-up that recently opened in the former Crate & Barrel flagship store in Chicago on Michigan Avenue. The hope on Toys “R” Us’ part is that this pop-up strategy can lead to a resurrection of the Toys “R” Us brand.