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Retail, Reinvented: The Rise of the Pop-Up Shop

Bracha Arnold
March 14, 2023
Retail, Reinvented: The Rise of the Pop-Up Shop

Pop-up shops are nothing new on the retail scene, with Japanese fashion house Comme de Garcons debuting the "guerrilla shop" back in 2004. Since then, more and more retailers have jumped on the pop-up train, seeing the format as a fast, affordable, and engaging way to promote their products. We take a closer look at a few different pop-up retail experiences to understand how brands can leverage this format to expand their reach and tap into new markets.

SKIMS Swimwear: Branching Out From Brick-and-Mortar Partners 

Kim Kardashian debuted her shapewear line, SKIMS, in 2019, “breaking the internet” and  selling $2 million worth of products within minutes of the launch. The Kardashian-Jenners are no strangers to hyped-up product launches, and the launch of Swim by SKIMS was no exception. The entrepreneur chose the Miami Design District as the launch location for her collection in March 2022, which resulted in huge demand that is a testament to the popularity of both SKIMS and the Kardashian brand. Lines snaked around the block, reflected in the foot traffic data – visits to the Design District increased by 31.8% the week of March 21st, the launch date, compared to the same week the previous year. 

SKIMS can be found online and in-store at Nordstrom, but pop-ups like the one in the Miami Design District are a great way for the brand to branch out and reach a new audience beyond its usual retail channels. And it's no surprise that the pop-up drew a crowd, with the social media savvy Kardashian likely utilizing her vast online following to drive attendance, highlighting the importance of social media strategy for retailers. 

Stranger Things: Exploring the Upside Down

Stranger Things, one of Netflix's most popular shows, is known for leaning into nostalgia. The show is set in the 1980s, and shopping malls play an essential role in the plotline. Leaning into that nostalgic vibe, Netflix chose to use malls for their experiential pop-up stores, allowing visitors to experience the Upside Down, Hawkins, and other central locations from the show. These stores, which serve as a retail destination for show merchandise and a promotional tool, have been met with enthusiasm from fans and elevated foot traffic to the mall.

One mall in Grapevine, Texas, hosted a Stranger Things pop-up between May 23rd, 2022, and August 14th, 2022. The mall saw a decided uptick in visits during the period. Pre-pop-up visits to the mall had remained relatively static compared to an April 4th, 2022 baseline. In May, visits began to increase, and the week of the pop-up's launch saw visits up nearly 50% (compared to an April baseline). This trend continued until the pop-up closed in mid-August. The success of this pop-up serves as a reminder of the appeal an immersive shopping experience can have on consumer behavior.

Shein: Fast Fashion Pulling Crowds from Afar

Shein is one of the biggest clothing retailers in the world. The Chinese fast fashion brand was founded in 2008 as a B2C brand and has grown to a fashion powerhouse, fueled by its influencer collaborations and popularity on TikTok. And though the company rose to prominence online, Shein has been leaning into physical retail more and more in recent years, with a permanent location opening in Japan. Shein has also begun considering the U.S. market for more store openings and, to that end, has started experimenting with pop-ups across the country. 

One pop-up took place in The Shops at Willow Bend in Plano, Texas, over a weekend in August 2022. The pop-up was a success, with thousands of customers lining up, and weekly visits growing by 33.0% compared to the previous week. But aside from seeing more visitors than the last and following weeks did, visitors from the mall also came from farther away than usual. Comparing the mall's True Trade Areas (TTA) in the weeks immediately preceding and following the Shein pop-up shows that the mall’s TTA was significantly larger the week of the pop-up, drawing visitors from areas that don’t usually feed visits to the shopping center. In other words, the pop-up not only brought in more visitors to the mall, it helped reach new customers.  

Increasing Reach With Pop-Ups

The retail revolution is well underway, with more brands and consumers seeking unique shopping experiences. And in a time when many stores may struggle to get customers through the door, collaborating with other brands and retailers can help provide a needed boost and increase foot traffic for shops, retail corridors, and malls alike.

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