How Pop-Up Stores Are Changing Retail


Pop-up retail is having a major impact on the retail experience today, with small entrepreneurs and big brands alike using pop-up strategies to engage customers with creative merchandising and outside-the-box thinking. Though it is not a new trend (Wikipedia says the concept dates back to seasonal Christmastime markets in 13th century Vienna), lately it seems like pop-up shops are popping up all over.

The pop-up retail industry has been valued as high as $50 billion, according to design:retail. So, why are so many retailers investing in pop-up shops and related initiatives? Here are four pretty compelling reasons:

  • Revenue Generation
  • Brand Awareness
  • Customer Engagement
  • Experiential Marketing

“From startups and young eCommerce brands looking to establish a brick-and-mortar presence to legacy global brands attempting to test a new regional market or launch a new product or category, pop-up retail has become mainstream,” said Alison Embrey Medina, editor in chief at design:retail, in an article describing the pop-up phenomenon. “Some might even call it a strategic necessity in today’s rapidly changing retail climate.”

The pop-up market went into “overdrive” about a decade ago, she explained, when the recession increased the supply of empty storefronts at low lease rates. Since then, it has continued to grow as some retailers have become more cautious around massive rollouts and more open to embracing an “adaptive, flexible and short-term approach to new experiments and brand activations.”

Pop-Up Retail Today: From Trend to ‘Full-Blown Phenomenon’

Shopify, a leading eCommerce platform and industry resource, defines pop-up retail as follows:

Pop-up retail is the temporary use of physical space to create a long-term, lasting impression with potential customers. A pop-up shop allows you to communicate your brand’s promise to your customers through the use of a unique and engaging physical environment while creating an immersive shopping experience.

It has also been called “rogue retailing” by CBRE Group. In an article on shopping trends for the 2017 holiday season, the international real estate services company reported that pop-up shops “have evolved from a trend into a full-blown phenomenon.”

Because they tend to be small-scale, according to, “Pop-ups provide an opportunity for business owners to be creative and use innovative merchandising techniques to attract passersby. Pop-up stores are often characterized by an engaging appearance and innovative design. Successful pop-ups combine a good location and retail concept to create an experience that customers will remember.”

7 Key Benefits of Pop-up Retail

Shopify enumerates seven key benefits of pop-up retail in its Ultimate Guide to Pop-Up Shops:

  • Test a New Revenue Stream
  • Engage Customers Offline
  • Create “Get It While It Lasts” Urgency
  • Market Merchandise Around a Sale, Season or Holiday
  • Educate New Customers
  • Go to Where Your Customers Are
  • Generate Brand Awareness

Pop-up shops help businesses bridge the gap between online and offline retailing. According to the Shopify report, successful eCommerce merchants who lack a physical offline presence are missing out on opportunities to boost revenue, build customer awareness and test market new products and concepts.

For these and other reasons, pop-ups are here to stay. “We are seeing experimentation flourish in cities across the globe, with temporary storefronts and nomadic retail presences giving retail the tools it needs to be young and free, and open up to new customer bases, regional markets and demographics,” Embrey Medina said in the design:retail article.

Pop-Up is Inspiring Retail Suppliers, Too

The continuing popularity of pop-up retail is also changing the industry in other ways. For example, Visual Creations Inc. (VCI), a retail fixture and display manufacturer with 35 years of experience working with the nation’s biggest retailers, has invested in reorganizing its state-of-the-art custom fixture and display manufacturing operation to help current and future clients looking to make an impact with their own take on the pop-up model (see video).

“We actually carved out a part of our manufacturing campus for that type of business, so as not to interrupt the flow in our main facility,” said President and CEO Jay Long. “We’ve always built business around traditional rollouts, but we had to adapt.”

Long recognized that even some of VCI’s biggest customers were beginning to shift part of their focus to smaller projects — enabling them to test retail concepts, campaigns and environments before scaling up, and also to innovate with smaller projects for many of the reasons discussed above, such as exploring new ways to reach and engage customers.

“Existing retail and brand customers who are already familiar with our strong capabilities in medium to large-size rollouts are recognizing that they can get the same services and skillsets applied to their smaller projects,” said Long, highlighting the opportunity for bigger companies to experiment with more creative strategies for a smaller initial investment than would be required for a traditional rollout.

Meanwhile, smaller brands and entrepreneurs see the benefit of working with a seasoned manufacturing partner that has a strong track record of executing national rollouts for major retailers and is equipped to apply all of the quality processes of large-scale manufacturing to smaller-scale jobs. He sees significant opportunity in working with small and mid-sized clients to help them make an impact in the adaptive world of pop-up retail, and ultimately to grow.

Long said he was very encouraged to learn during recent attendance at several industry trade shows that retail executives from companies of all sizes were very responsive to the message from Visual Creations and its signware division Rose Displays about creating custom fixtures, displays and signware for “smaller, more adaptive programs.” Speaking of trade shows: to view our lookbook of images from our most recent booth at GlobalShop 2018, click here.

Meanwhile, the pop-up concept is certainly resonating with the most important audience of all — shoppers. Pop-up shoppers are far more likely to share positive feedback on social media, in part because retailers are working to design compelling experiences that create feelings of immediacy, originality and “get it while it lasts” exclusivity.

Let’s Talk Pop-Ups!
(Visual Creations & Rose Displays)

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