Pop-Up Shops Are Making Lasting Impressions

The retail landscape is in flux. Ecommerce is growing unabated, but traditional brick and mortar sales is undergoing a transition as consumer behavior changes. Online shopping is a powerful new competitor. It’s fast, it’s easy, and the array of options is vast and always expanding.

But, some things are still better done in person, so traditional retail’s days aren’t numbered just yet. New retail strategies are being tested constantly. Pop-up shops, temporary retail operations, which run for a few days or weeks and then disappear are a thriving new sector in retail.

They are proving to be an effective new tool to experiment with products and marketing and create brand experiences that endure long after the events themselves are carted away.

More and more brands are seizing this opportunity to delight their customers. Here are 10 pop-ups that connected:

  1. Frito-Lay’s Cheetos brand of snacks and its mascot Chester Cheetah were the theme of the “The Spotted Cheetah,” a pop-up restaurant in Tribeca. For three days celebrity chef Anne Burrell served up Flamin’ Hot limon chicken tacos and Cheetos Sweetos Crusted Cheesecake to brand super fans and adventurous diners.
  2. Patagonia’s Worn Wear program resells used gear and clothing from the outdoor brand. It serves as both an eco-friendly message and a subtle reminder of the durability of Patagonia’s products. To promote the program they organized a wood-clad mobile repair shop called the Worn Wear Wagon and sent it on a 21-state tour.
  3. Dufry, giant of duty-free airport shopping, partnered with Tito’s Handmade Vodka to create a Tito’s-themed ‘speak-easy style’ pop-up bar at Las Vegas’ McCarren International Airport. The event was targeted at Millennials looking for new shopping and dining experiences and timed for the airport’s peak traffic period.
  4. Wal-Mart held its first “Holiday Helper Workshop” in 2014. The pop-up experience let shoppers try out the season’s new toys and purchase them on the spot. Since then the program has been expanded to locations across the country.
  5. Like pop-up retail, subscription boxes are an old idea that is finding a new audience. But there is still a lot of faith required to purchase something sight unseen. Birchbox, which mails out beauty product selections held several “Build Your Own Box” activations to introduce itself to skeptical potential customers.
  6. BarkBox, a monthly subscription box of pet treats and toys, did the same with its BarkShop Live, a curated space in Soho where pet owners could let their four-legged friends try out the toys first and see which they responded to.
  7. Pop-ups are a good place to experiment. Even if they don’t work out, they’ll be gone soon enough. But when they find traction many brands take the concept and run with it. WIRED Magazine opened a pop-up shop to let New Yorkers try some of the stylish, next-gen tech found in the periodical. It was so popular that it has become an annual event and spread to Los Angeles.
  8. Taco Bell also found success with a pop-up experiment. It’s temporary restaurant at the 2015 South by Southwest festival was built from industrial shipping containers. The distinctive look and conservation-minded thinking behind them was a hit and led to the construction of a permanent shipping container restaurant earlier this year in California.
  9. Not content to leave any retail sector unexplored, Amazon rolled out its “Treasure Trucks” once again this summer. The mobile retail operations contain an assortment of snacks, gadgets, and clothing products and can be tracked on Amazon’s website.
  10. The attention and media a pop-up event can generate make them ideal for launching brands or initiating forays into new markets. The Obey clothing company founded by street artist Shepard Fairey has thus far never had a stand-alone retail location. So, this summer it used a month-long pop-up shop on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles to test the waters with the release of its Debbie Harry x Obey collection.

Online shopping is convenient, but it’s not typically a delight for the senses, nor an event worthy of sharing with your social network. Pop-ups, by contrast, are often visually arresting, unique moments that are built to be instagrammed, snapchatted, and tweeted.

In this media-infused, share-happy age, pop-ups are bringing fun, excitement, and novelty back to retail.