By Neil Nisperos
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Calif.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) “Pop-Up” Shops, social media-friendly temporary storefronts are helping financially struggling mall operators fill empty space while riding a hot trend.
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Calif.
Popup shops at malls aren’t just for Halloween costumes in October, personalized ornament stores during the holidays or H&R Blocks at tax season anymore.
The same trend helping up-and-coming entrepreneurs get a foothold in the marketplace — albeit temporarily — at music festivals or fan conventions, or even inside other stores, are now hanging their “open” sign in malls alongside well-established brands. Some are open for a week, others as many as six months.
The social media-friendly temporary storefronts are helping financially struggling mall operators fill empty space while riding a hot trend.
“You can’t change a store overnight, but you sure can put in a different popup business fairly quickly and in different locations,” said regional business expert Jay Prag, professor of economics and finance at the Drucker School of Management at Claremont Graduate.
Masking the cold hard truth
And empty spaces there are. Britt Beemer estimates there are 33 percent more malls than the U.S. marketplace can support.
“What’s driving this, as every (mall owner) knows that if they have so much empty space, there’s a point where the consumer says they’re dead and they go away, and when that happens, I don’t see anybody recover from that,” said Beemer, chairman and founder of America’s Research Group, which studies consumer and retail trends.
With disposable income in shorter supply, consumers have moved from shopping trendy retail stores in the mall to value-oriented stores, such as Ross Dress for Less, Beemer said.
Popups, Beemer said, are a way to ensure the consumer doesn’t walk away thinking that a mall is struggling, or worse — dying.
A youth play
Overall, it’s a trend that’s taken hold with young entrepreneurs — and young consumers — with much of the marketing for the here-today-gone-tomorrow spots taking place on online platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.
“Since they’re driven by social media, their appeal is going to be for the younger generation and to people who are looking to just hang out at the mall,” Prag said. “But while they’re hanging out, they can go to new, interesting and different retailers, which will now be these popup stores.”
Some stores that have “popped up” in the last year include:
–A Hello Kitty Cafe Pop-Up Container cozied up to customers at The Irvine Spectrum Center last summer. The cafe sold a limited assortment of cookies, pastries, cakes and hot and cold beverages themed to the popular Japanese character familiar to young and old alike.
–Fashion designer and co-owner of the fashion brand Mr. Mistr, Sebastian Diego has utilized a popup store at the Hard Rock Hotel in Palm Springs.
–Kyle Chan Design opened in January at Hollywood & Highland. It was supposed to close in February, but success gave jewelry designer and owner Kyle Chan a six-month lease.
Chan, who designed the jewelry worn by Emma Stone in her hit movie “La La Land,” came about his space after winning a popup contest held by property owner CIM. Before entering the competition, Chan spent three days exhaustively studying the demographics of the mall to identify the customers he’d be encountering at the checkout counter. In addition, he invested in giving his popup a sense of permanency despite its transient nature, lining the walls with agate stone shelving.
A trial run
Popups can morph into a real and lasting presence. Uniqlo, the retailer sometimes known as the Japanese Gap and now found at South Coast Plaza, the Beverly Center, Glendale Galleria, Northridge Fashion Center and Ontario Mills, kicked off its SoCal debut in popup shops the summer of 2014 at three malls. “We did the popups to give the customers in L.A. a sneak peek,” Eileen McMaster, Uniqlo’s then-vice president of public relations and internal communications, said at the time. “They give costumers a taste of Uniqlo.”
Diego has plans to open another popup in the Los Angeles area soon.
“As far as real estate space, popup shops are just great when you’re trying to figure out a demographic in an area, because opening up a space is going to be a hit or miss,” Diego said. “You think you know your demographic and then (when you open and the business fails), you don’t.
“Having a popup shop is just less risk at the end of the day.”
Attention: Wannabe popups
Although business owners can take advantage of saving on a no-frills presentation, Chan warns them to not skimp out.
“If you don’t present your company to the full potential, let’s say you move in some temporary display, then you only get the minimal effect of how you can present the company and measure how much traffic you’re going to get (in the future),” said Chan, who added that retailers who do a popup can gather important market data for a more future, permanent space while not having to worry too much about the rent in the present.