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The future of pop-ups

Topshop pop-up

They bring an experiential and intimate element to retail across the UK, as well as adding a new USP to big high-street players. Drapers investigates the future of the pop-up.

The UK high street has not had an easy ride in recent years – recession, rising rents and rates have had a big impact on our retail environment. However, from the boarded-up shopfronts a proverbial phoenix has risen from the ashes: the pop-up shop. Flexible terms, negotiated rents and temporary locations mean pop-ups are here to stay.

Almost a third of new businesses launched in the UK over the next two years will start life as a pop-up shop, according to phone company EE. In a poll of 2,000 consumers, the firm found that of the people who were planning to start businesses within the next two years, 29% will do so by launching a pop-up store to test the market and hone their product offering. Undoubtedly, the structure is popular, but how will it evolve over the next few years?

Ross Bailey, founder of pop-up space booking platform Appear Here, which launches more than 200 pop-ups in London alone per month, says customer behaviour is driving retail and pop-ups are a reaction to that “what we want when we want it” culture.

“The prevalence of ecommerce means that retailers are considering whether they need to use shops in the same way as before,” he says. ”The shopper’s transaction can happen anywhere, so in store it is all about the experience now. Customers are craving something new; for fashion today it’s about how it makes them feel, not about the logo on the garment.”

Bailey says we will see more pop-ups from both pure-play etailers and big bricks-and-mortar hitters: “It is all about convenience. People have got used to logging on to Amazon and having access to everything immediately. I think we will see a lot more pick-up locations for etailers in the form of pop-ups in future.”

Topshop pop-up

Topshop pop-up

He adds: “Topshop is really investing in pop-ups; they are acting like a landlord and letting space out to these great brands through Appear Here. It’s about bringing something new and fresh into Topshop’s offer.”

Appear Here is currently in talks with department stores in London and Paris. “It’s essentially a concession model, but it gives indies who would never have the chance to go in there an opportunity to get space.”

Anika Islam, director and founder of British denim brand Wåven, which opened a London pop-up in June, said she hopes to open pop-ups in department stores next year.

“The pop-up was a great experiment for the brand but definitely a learning curve,” she says. ”It was an opportunity for us to play with the concept of retail and see what works for us – we hope to have standalone stores in the long term. We would love to do another and are looking to collaborate with some of our retailers, like Selfridges, to do pop-ups in their stores.”

Anusha Couttigane, fashion consultant at retail research firm Conlumino, says there will be a further increase in larger retailers opening pop-up spaces: “We will see more big brands using them to push special collections. Ted Baker, for example, opened a tennis pop-up in White City to promote its summer range. Pure-play etailers are also using them to test the market for physical locations.”

She adds that many retailers and brands will use temporary stores as case studies for a route to market. “There has been a real shift in the last year or two from using pop-ups for promotion to using them to strategically test the market and appetite of shoppers in certain locations.”

Kit and Ace Regent Street pop up

Kit and Ace Regent Street pop-up

JJ Wilson, co-founder of Canadian retailer Kit and Ace – which has three pop-up shops in London and another seven worldwide – said: “Pop-ups are a way for us to test new markets in an impactful and creative way. We’re able to test new areas of cities where we have permanent shops, like on Regent Street in London. It allows us to open a temporary location to interact with our customers and gain valuable feedback from them prior to opening a permanent shop in a new city or neighbourhood.”

Wilson says pop-up shops give Kit and Ace an experiential edge.

“Pop-ups are an innovative way for brands to showcase themselves – they provide the flexibility to open up shops in unexpected locations, such as department stores, train stations or at experiential events. We like to surprise and delight customers with our pop-ups, and we will see more brands doing experiential activations around these in the future.”

Rob Welsh, head of sales at menswear brand Roamers & Seekers, which opened its first retail space in a pop-up at 27 Clare Street in Bristol earlier this month, said the label is looking for a permanent location in the city on the back of the success of the pop-up.

Roamers and Seekers pop up

Roamers & Seekers pop-up

“We decided to go down the pop-up route mainly to heighten brand awareness,” he said. ”The fact that a traditional pop-up is normally a low-cost and short-term thing gives a new brand like us the chance to have a door on the street where we can showcase our product and importantly gauge the market reaction to what we do and get valuable feedback.”

He adds: “It gives the smaller labels and retailers a window of opportunity to start up and get some exposure without the long-term financial commitment of a long lease. Anything that fills the many empty shop units and breathes life back into these areas and the ever-increasing, emerging fashionable secondary locations has got to be a good thing.”

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