Pop-Up Shops Giving Local Stores Big Sales On Their Timelines

By Kyle Arnold
Orlando Sentinel

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Pop-up shops are becoming more popular as markets and malls try to fill space left by businesses turning to e-commerce.

Orlando Sentinel

Cassandra Plas became part of a growing retail trend when she set up a pop-up shop every day for a month at East End Market this summer, selling locally made Dutch cookies called stroopwafel.

The pop-up had brisk sales. Plas got exposure for her business name — Gezellig Cookies — and secured some new wholesale deals. And then she packed up and returned to selling through her website.

Pop-up shops are becoming more popular as markets and malls try to fill space left by businesses turning to e-commerce and entrepreneurs seeking alternatives to a long-term lease and maintaining a storefront.

Temporary retail stores are nothing new. But the phenomenon is growing fast. Even though the economy is improving, major retailers — such as Sports Authority and Sears — are still closing stores or going bankrupt. That’s leaving big holes in retail complexes.

Pop-up entrepreneurs are looking for exposure without commitment, said Steve Kirn, a marketing and retail lecturer at the University of Florida.

“Retailers and landlords want to offer a new experience every time someone walks in,” Kirn said. “If you are rotating your stores or changing what you sell, you give people a reason to come back.”

Entrepreneurs sometimes capitalize on seasonal demand, such as Halloween costume sales, or reach out to a new audience at a high-traffic spot, Kirn said.

The holidays are a big draw because the high traffic at a mall during the holidays can offer supercharged exposure for a new entrepreneur. Altamonte Mall in Seminole County, for example, is hosting six seasonal stores this year, including chocolate sellers, home decor and a video game seller.

Spirit Halloween has long taken advantage of the retail vacancies and has 10 stores in Central Florida this year.

“We like to get up in late August and closed down a few days after Halloween,” said Ray De La Rosa, manager at the Spirit Halloween store in Altamonte Springs.

National retailers West Elm, Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma host local businesses for pop-up shops inside their stores as a way to highlight new, interesting products. A report from Business Insider earlier this year said Amazon was discussing 100 pop-up stores in malls during the holiday season.

Orlando’s East End Market owner John Rife plans to dedicate a space for a rotating, short-term pop-up.

“Customers want to see new things, and we don’t really have the capacity to give them these things on a full-time basis,” Rife said. “Plus it gives businesses a chance to test new ideas and get experience running a shop.”

Restaurants are also seeing pop-ups, a variation on the growing popularity of food trucks. Kappo sushi restaurant threw pop-up dinners during weekends in September at The Guesthouse, a local bar at 1321 N. Mills Ave.

Kappo’s weekend meals were aimed at raising money for their new restaurant at 1809 Winter Park Drive in Orlando.

Teresa Baer-Olive, who runs Ananda Natural Soy Candles out of Windermere, said she usually pays a small fee to open a temporary space within an existing retail shop. But sometimes, at outlets like Pottery Barn, she doesn’t pay anything.

“What’s great about pop-ups is that you aren’t firmly planted at a certain location,” Baer-Olive said. “You are going to where people are.”

Baer-Olive said she doesn’t want the overhead or risk of renting a permanent space.

She also spends about three days a week doing community events such as farmers markets.

Gezellig’s Cookies gets most of its sales either online or selling to other retailers in town. The business makes gift baskets for the holidays and sends boxes of cookies — two thin, crispy waffles with a caramel-like filling — across the country.

Online orders for the cookie took off after the monthlong pop-up store experience, Plas said. She said she isn’t interested in the commitment of a full-time retail store.

“People saw us [at the pop-up store] and discovered who we were,” she said.

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