Small Thinking for Big Retailers

1 Nov 2016

Over the last few years, small retailers and independent brands have pioneered the pop-up shop concept, using them to access prime retail spaces without breaking the bank. Because these pop-up shops need to maximize their exposure and make an impact on a short timeline, they tend to be more creative with their spaces than big retailers with permanent outposts. As a result, brands leveraging temporary space often make headlines and build hype that can overshadow the mainstays.

Big retailers like Nike and Kate Spade are beginning to realize that they too need to embrace the innovation and agility of these smaller brands to thrive in the evolving retail landscape. As they develop experiential marketing strategies to adapt to the new age of retail, here are three ways big retailers can cash in on the benefits of pop-up shops.

1. Being in the right place at the right time.
Trends are turning over faster than ever before. Every week, another “next big thing,” “upcoming destination,” or “trending concept” is being celebrated. If big retailers want to be a part of these moments, they have to adapt quickly. The flexibility of a pop-up store allows brands to move with their target audience. They can set up shop for key moments in the year and, importantly, move on before their audience gets bored.

Nike, Kith, pop-up store, Soho

Nike, the global athletic apparel brand, launched an olympic-themed pop-up shop in the Soho location of the NYC streetwear label Kith just in time for the 2016 Rio Olympics. The two brands collaborated to create a space where fans could shop for Nike product made exclusively for the Olympics, browse vintage Nike memorabilia and ads, and even snack on Kith’s specialty breakfast cereal. The collaboration was a huge hit on lifestyle and streetwear blogs and magazines. With this shop, Nike was able to create buzz in the fashion space and cash in on Kith’s valuable currency — New York City street cred.

2. Starting the conversation.
Launching a pop-up shop is an effective way of generating PR and building the buzz around your brand. As the saying goes, “if it’s new, it’s news.” By appearing in an unexpected location and venturing beyond their store walls, big retailers can surprise and excite their audiences.

The short-term nature of a pop-up shop creates a sense of urgency and exclusivity, which often attracts big crowds. People are more likely to visit when there’s a limited time scale and this often leads to an increase in sales.

Marc Jacobs, Daisy Dream, pop-up

If brands incorporate ways in which their customers can share their experiences online, they can make the story travel further. Marc Jacobs is a great example. They launched a pop-up “tweet shop” for Marc Jacobs' new fragrance, Daisy Dream. For three days, the shop exchanged tweets for Marc Jacobs goodies. Thousands of people used the #MJDaisyChain and the store was covered in all major fashion blogs and websites.

3. Running experiments.
Pop-up shops are a great platform for experimentation. Brands can use them to quickly get real-time customer feedback on new products, concepts, or collections before going fully to market. The stores themselves don’t require a huge investment and are easy to manage.

Kate Space, pop-up shop, soho

For the launch of their home goods collection, the lifestyle brand Kate Spade created a two-month pop-up shop in Soho. The shop was a series of tiny rooms carefully curated with furniture, rugs, art, and accessories to inspire the dwellers of small spaces in Manhattan. Between loads of press, a well-used hashtag, and the shop’s prime location downtown, Kate Spade raised brand awareness and doubled the number of NYC-area home shoppers on the Kate Spade ecommerce website.

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