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First published in January 2004* | If new products can come and go, why can't the stores that display them do the same? Well, you guessed it, retail outlets increasingly do. From gallery-like shopping spaces with one-off exhibitions to mobile units bringing innercity-chic to rural areas, TRENDWATCHING.COM has noticed an increase in temporary retail manifestations around the world.

We've dubbed this trend POP-UP RETAIL, as these initiatives have a tendency to pop up unannounced, quickly draw in the crowds, and then disappear or morph into something else, adding to retail the fresh feel, exclusivity and surprise that galleries, theatres and Cirque du Soleil-adepts have been using for years. To the delight of consumers, who are increasingly used to MASSCLUSIVITY and PLANNED SPONTANEITY. Trend examples are below, to learn from or copy.

Song's flagship store in NYC

• No-frills, yet stylish airline Song opened a flagship store in November 2003, smack in the middle of SoHo, NY (near Dean & DeLuca and Mercer Hotel). Besides being the first airline store of its kind, its lifespan raised eyebrows, too: the 'Song in the City' store will close next week; 22 December 2003, to be precise. Open only from Thursdays to Sundays, this 9-week store features samples of Song's in-flight menu, sells travel gear, lets visitors experience the various in-flight entertainment options, and yes, even sells tickets. Brands like Disney, Coca-Cola and Health Magazine dole out goodies (including free massages!), all this in a very stylish, SoHo-worthy environment. Check the intinerary-style agenda for this week's events, while it's still there.

Target, the US-based discount-chic franchise that works with (amongst others) fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi, opened up a temporary 1500 sq. feet store in Rockefeller Center to celebrate Mizrahi's stylish yet affordable new women's clothing line. The glossy store was open from 4 September to 15 October 2003 only. Last year, Target actually housed a temporary floating store on the Hudson River for the Christmas season. POP-UP RETAIL at its best!

Images from Vacant stores

Images from Vacant stores

• Turning POP-UP RETAIL's temporary theme into a long term formula is Vacant, an exclusive retail concept and exhibition store that opens for one month only in empty spaces in major cities including New York, London, Tokyo, Shanghai, Paris, Berlin, Stockholm and Los Angeles, showcasing a range of one-off, hard to find and strictly limited edition products from established brands and emerging designers. Limited quantities are available, and not all products on display can be purchased. New store locations are announced by email to Vacant Club members only moments before opening. .

• Less secretive, but certainly the most mobile version of POP-UP RETAIL: the London Fashion Bus. Launched at the end of May 2003, the London Fashion Bus is a continually touring showroom,London Fashion Busstocking over 1,400 pieces of work from 40 designers. The refitted double-decker bus brings unique designer pieces to areas throughout Britain that don't have London's uber-trendy boutiques and outlets, while giving young designers a wider audience. Consumers can find tour dates and locations on the website.

• This summer, Ebay -- eager to get some real-world exposure, AND keen on shedding its 'flea market' image -- invited six interior designers to furnish an entire New York City penthouse. The catch? Designers had a limited budget and could only use furniture and accessories purchased through Ebay.com. The result turned out to be a mix of funky and chic, worthy of an upscale store. All items could be bought from the website for one week in October 2003, after which the Ebay Showhouse closed its physical and virtual doors, having fulfilled its POP-UP RETAIL goals.

Oceanic• Proof that POP-UP RETAIL can flourish outside mega-metropolises as well: Brazilian cosmetics firm Oceanic, which didn't have the funds to build a nationwide bricks and mortar presence, decided to go mobile. It equipped the majority of its franchisees with Fiat Doblo minivans, which are both delivery vehicles AND shops. Developed in coordination with Cherto, a Brazilian distribution strategy group, the mobile stores make it easy to target prime consumer locations such as universities, schools, hospitals, parks, and trade shows. Not to mention customization: the mobile store's inventory can be customized for different locations (i.e. if a frachisee parks near a beach, he or she'd better stock up on sunscreen and suntan lotions!). POP-UP RETAIL Brazilian style!


fits right in with the Entertainment Economy, the Experience Economy, the Surprise Economy, and so on. It's about surprising consumers with temporary 'performances', guaranteeing exclusivity because of the limited timespan. When truly mobile, like Vacant, the London Fashion Bus or Oceanic, POP-UP RETAIL also offers unparalleled opportunities for targeting and customization.

From individual designers teaming up, to real estate agents making better use of vacant properties, to big brands looking to add a bit of 'cool' and agility to their otherwise fixed locations and massive flagship stores: POP-UP RETAIL could do the trick. And let's not forget the dozens of online pure-plays dying to get a bit of offline visibility... (How about Amazon.com Christmas stores in Düsseldorf and London?) Expect more POP-UP RETAIL appearing in the months to come, and expect to find out about it first on TRENDWATCHING.COM. >> Email this trend to a friend.


Picture: NYT

MARCH 2004 | We introduced our POP-UP RETAIL trend a short while ago, including examples like Vacant's traveling store, Song Airline's eight week SoHo outlet and Target's Christmas 'galleries', and now it seems high-end fashion brands are getting into the game as well. Comme des Garcons just opened its first temporary Guerrilla Store in Berlin, which will be open for business for only one year, whether it's a hit or a miss.

The 750-square-foot Berlin store, located in a remote neighborhood in former East Berlin, is more or less raw space: just clothing racks and merchandise, no architectural wonders, which sits well with the USD 700 a month rent (source: NYT).

The whole concept gives consumers something that can be perceived as exclusive, discovery-driven and �get it while it lasts', while Comme des Garçons taps into an entirely new channel for quickly introducing new items around the world, in funky areas catering to a funky clientele.

Meanwhile, Song (the Delta Airlines' owned, chic no-frills airline) is about to have its second Song Store 'pop-up' in Boston (near the Prudential Center), which, like its predecessor in New York's SoHo, will stay open for only 2 months. (source: Boston Globe).
Will it sell the airline millions of extra tickets? Maybe not, but if an airline can open up pop-up stores and create some buzz, so can other industries normally not associated with the business of retail experience. Yours, perhaps? >> Email this trend to a friend.


JULY 2004 | Our POP-UP RETAIL trend, which we coined in January of this year, keeps 'popping up': just last month USA TODAY covered the pop-up store phenomenon, which then got snapped up by other publications across the US. As we've stated before, as a trend, POP-UP RETAIL makes total sense: if new products can come and go, catering to a MASSCLUSIVITY starved audience, why can't the stores that display them do the same?

Sharing the latest in 'rotating retail' initiatives, here are some sunny POP-UP RETAIL examples, fresh from the streets of Manhattan and the beaches of the Hamptons:

Target, now the official 'King of POP-UP RETAIL', has done it again: after Isaac Mizrahi's temporary 1500 sq. feet store in Rockefeller Center last October, the company popped up in the Hamptons with a temporary, 5 week summer store in the Bullseye Inn (28 May - 4 July 2004) for all things summer. Think table linens by Cynthia Rowley, outdoor lighting by Sean Conway and ample grills and barbeque accessories.

Billboards in the streets of Manhattan touted the pop-up store as the place to be for Park Ave execs in search of beach wares and beach 'buddies'. But Target didn't stop there: paying respect to those Manhattanites too busy to frolic in the Hamptons, Target popped up in Times Square on 24 June, its "Deliver the Shiver" trucks selling brand-new 5,000 BTU air conditioners for only USD 75.00 a pop, each unit coming with a free Bullseye pull cart as well. (Source: TrendCentral.) Very cool, this is how you create POP-UP lovemarks ;-)

JC Penney, riding high these days on more contemporary collections, is honoring its new home furnishings brand, Chris Madden (an up-and-coming home decorating maven), with a 2,500 square feet pop-up space at Rockefeller Center. Like Target, J.C. Penney is experimenting with POP-UP RETAIL as a tool to gain access to influencers and create some buzz, but also considers the "Turning Home Into Haven" showroom a way to test the market for new product lines. Customers can browse the collection and purchase items online at computer stations in the pop-up store, which opened its doors in May 2004, for convenient home delivery. The retailer is now considering a pop-up store or showroom in Los Angeles as well, which would sell women's and men's clothing. (Sources: AP, MorningStar.)

POP-UP RETAIL works for online venues, too: Bluefly.com, an online retailer of designer brands at discount prices, opened a real-world holiday outlet store in New York. The 4,200-square-foot pop-up store is located on 24th Street. It's not a first for this e-tailer: last year, Bluefly cleared out its old stock in a temporary boutique, also in New York. (Source: The Economist.)

And to keep things truly virtual: Style.com, the online home of Vogue and W magazines, recently introduced TheShop, which features, on a weekly basis, a rotating handful of online boutiques, ranging from hip, affordable work and weekend wear from Club Monaco to elaborate, collectable shoes by Edmundo Castillo. Definitely an interesting POP-UP RETAIL application, satisfying consumers' needs for original and surprising apparel, and establishing a platform for an abundance of original products from both established designers and new talent.

POP-UP RETAIL fits right in with the Entertainment Economy, the Experience Economy, the Surprise Economy, with MASSCLUSIVITY, and so on. It's about surprising consumers with temporary 'performances', guaranteeing exclusivity because of the limited time span. It's about buzz, and about new try-out and testing techniques. It provides visibility for e-tailers and allows 'real-world' companies to enter uncharted markets on the cheap. In short, it's one of those trends that should be incorporated in every existing and new marketing and advertising strategy. Where will your brand pop-up next?
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SEPTEMBER 2004 | OK, here's yet another POP-UP RETAIL update: as predicted, more and more companies are now jumping on the Surprise Economy bandwagon, introducing traveling or limited time-only stores to mirror a world where few things are static anymore, anyway. Check out new POP UP STORE initiatives from Meow Mix, eBay, easyJet, and even the first POP-UP RETAIL fight that broke out between Vacant and Comme des Garcons! Meanwhile, a poll on FastCompany is asking visitors to vote on what's the strongest opportunity for pop-up stores: is it buzz, increasing sales, improving the customer experience, or bolstering the brand? May TRENDWATCHING.COM suggest adding empathy: actually showing up when and where your customers need you most?

Vacant, the original traveling and temporary store opening for one month only in cities internationally, has launched the Vacant guerilla mobile retail unit, a store on the back of a Hummer H2 which will feature limited edition and exclusive products from major and emerging brands. The guerilla mobile unit features a GPS and webcam system that passes information to a specially designed website, www.guerillashop.com. The mobile guerilla retail unit will be able to be viewed from the website, and launches of products and special releases will be brought to 12 cities across the United States. Da Jammies, a new hip hop cartoon launching next year from the producers of Tupac's Thugz Mansion and Billionaire Boys Club from Pharrell and Reebok will be some of the first products to be released from the Vacant guerilla mobile retail unit. According to Vacant, the guerilla mobile retail unit will first pop-up in Las Vegas for the Magic Convention August 30th through September 2nd at the Bellagio Hotel on Las Vegas Boulevard.

Meow Mix
Talk about generating BUZZ: the Meow Mix Company, maker of dry cat food, just closed the doors of its Meow Mix Café, after just one week of retailing on 5th Ave in Manhattan. The 3,500-square-foot POP UP STORE served up culinary delights specially designed for cats (seven varieties of new Meow Mix Wet Food Pouches, including Cluck-a-Doodle-Doo, What's the Catch, Deep Sea Delight, Fillet Meow, Gobbliscious, Hook, Line and Sinker, and Upstream Dream), interactive games for both cats and cat-lovers, and a gift shop featuring kitty food and cat toys. The company may reopen it again at another site in New York, open similar stores in other cities or create a mobile cafe that would tour the country. Meow Mix spent about USD $200,000 on the whole project. (sources: NYT, NACS).

easyJet Beachclub
Perhaps inspired by that other airline, Song, who was early to the POP-UP RETAIL game, low cost carrier easyJet launched the easyJet BeachClub in Bloemendaal aan Zee, The Netherlands on 17 July 2004. Open for business until late September 2004, the easyJet BeachClub will be easyJet's 'temporary HQ in Holland'. TRENDWATCHING.COM can think of other (more sun-sure) locations: will easyJet pop-up in Nice or Barcelona next year? And where are RyanAir and VirginExpress?

MTV Designerama Pop Up Store tour
In collaboration with Adidas, Levi's and Sony Ericsson, MTV will tour German cities for a month with their POP-UP STORES, starting 23 September 2004. Cities to be visited are Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne, and Munich, and each of them will see a one week-only, 150 m2 store carrying limited edition fashion and tech items: phones, jeans and sneakers. Hip opening parties included, of course.

Comme des Garcons now in Singapore
We told you about Comme des Garcons' first Guerrilla store in Berlin: now, new, 12 month-only stores have popped up in Barcelona and Singapore. Comme des Garcons hopes to open seven more Guerrilla stores by the end of the year in cities like Warsaw, New York, Stockholm, Ljubljana and Vilnius.

The stores aren't without controversy: aforementioned Vacant Stores recently complained that: "after Song Airlines decision to duplicate the original concept of Vacant, and open a temporary store in New York City, including copying our original tagline, 'Is it a store, Is it a gallery', now Comme des Garcons have decided to attempt to create their own version of Vacant's original concept for a one year period. We received over 300 emails from our international database now well surpassing 1.4 million subscribers worldwide, asking us 'Is this a part of Vacant? Is Comme des Garcons a one year Vacant store?'".
Vacant and others -- be warned, it's a COPY CAT ECONOMY out there, and CREATIVE DESTRUCTION is now the only constant, even for something as emerging as POP-UP STORES ;-)

eBay Showhouse 2004
Former Elle Décor editor-in-chief Marian McEvoy organized the second annual eBay Showhouse in New York City this summer (or should we say 'pop-up house'), inviting eight designers to each make over a different room. Designers, given a budget of USD 100,000, had to purchase furnishings and accessories exclusively from the online auction website. All of the furnishings were resold on eBay during the time that the Showhouse was open, from June 12-19, 2004. (Sources: eBay, Interior Design.)

Target Red Hot Shop
Target Red Hot Shop, a new source for must-have products, and a virtual POP UP STORE to boot, officially launched at 9 August 2004 at Target.com. Taking inspiration from emerging trends, exotic locales and straight from the street, the Target Red Hot Shop online boutique features up to ten select, hot items each week. By offering up-to-the-minute trend items to Target customers no matter what their location, Red Hot Shop lets a Target customer in even the smallest towns find the hottest new products without having to travel to New York, Los Angeles or Miami. (Which is of course a trend in itself: thanks to online shopping, 5th Ave is finally coming to Main Street! But more on that in one of our upcoming issues.)

New POP UP RETAIL initiatives continue to pop up, and our previous recommendations still stand: it will pay to surprise, to change, to create buzz with a substance. If you can also delight your customers by being at the right place at the right time, your brand will win twice. More to follow from the ever more fickle world of retail in upcoming issues. In the mean time, do make sure you're popping up instead of staying put! >> Email this trend to a friend.

London Fashion Bus
Mobile merchandise
Other articles in international publications on POP-UP RETAIL

Note: if you're a journalist, and would like an exclusive POP-UP RETAIL or POP-UP STORES quote, please refer to our press page!


APRIL 2005 | Brace yourself! Our previous POP-UP RETAIL update appeared in September 2004, and ever since there's been an avalanche of new spottings. With this trend clearly approaching maturity, don't be surprised to come across pop-up stores everywhere this summer -- in airports, on cruise ships, in hotels, in vans, in abandoned warehouses and on the beach: MASSCLUSIVITY meets NOUVEAU NICHE meets UBIQUTIOUS COMMERCE, with a hint of TRYVERTISING! So here's one last blast of inspiration, from brands as diverse as Suave, Nike and Method:

Last fall, Method Products opened a three month San Francisco store on Union Square to introduce shoppers to the colorful soap and detergent brand. Open only from August to November, the store showed off Method's curvy bathroom and kitchen cleaners, hand and dish soaps in a gallery-like setting, reinforcing the beauty and design-aspect of the brand. More temporary Method stores may pop-up across the US this year.

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Last October, Crown Royal Whisky opened up a Crown Royal Barbershop on Lafayette Street in SoHo, NY, with barbers from Levels on hand to clip all comers, gratis, for one month, seven days a week. (Source: Incentive.)

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Last fall, to celebrate its 25th anniversary, health and beauty magazine Self opened a one month spa - the Self Center - for one month in a New York City brownstone. An entry fee of USD 25 bought full access to the facility, which also featured an organic market (paid for by Eddie Bauer), free makeovers (courtesy of Cover Girl) and a relaxation area, where physicians will provide consultations for Botox and other facial treatments.

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Pictures courtesy of Freshnessmag

Last fall, Levi's partnered with alife, a hipster store/creative collective on the Lower East Side, to create a location that sold brightly colored, special edition alife Levi's at USD 165 a pair. With only 501 pairs on sale, and the store only being open from mid September to mid October, Levi's seems to get the POP-UP game.

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Picture courtesy of Creative Time

In collaboration with Creative Time, fashion house Imitation Of Christ launched a moveable installation/store during New York's Fashion Week in February, in the form of a clear plexiglass box and a lone salesman, the single item for sale each day (ranging from a USD 7,000 couture dress on day one, to an unpredictable temptation for USD 50), and a neon sign announcing the store. Red dots on a map changed each day at 1:00 pm to announce the newest, strategically chosen store locations and times of operation for the day, as the nomadic store literally picked up and changed locations throughout the day, and closed as soon as the item was sold. The store has now packed up and may return in Los Angeles, London, Paris and Tokyo. (Source: Adrants.)

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This January, Sharp Electronics Corp. launched its Aquos high-definition TV with a SoHo gallery showcasing three artists' interpretations of Aquos' "More to See" tagline, with TVs used in the artwork. Sharp entertained its trade clients at the gallery, which was open for a month and designed by LIME Promotion & PR, the company behind pop-up stores for Delta Airlines and Target Stores. (Source: Promo Magazine.)

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Unilever's Suave shampoo brand opened up pop-up salons in New York City, Chicago and Minneapolis from 22 February to 30 March, as part of its "Can You Tell?" campaign which compares Suave's performance and price to high-end brands Pantene, Matrix and Nexxus. The salons were only open for five days in New York (two days each in Chicago and Minneapolis) with first-come, first-served appointments for free haircuts, styling, manicures and hand massages using Suave hair and skincare products (well, kind of: women had half of their head washed, conditioned and styled with Suave products and the rest with more expensive shampoos and conditioners). All salon visitors, whether they received a service or not, got sample-size products and a coupon for USD 1 off any Suave product.

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Last fall, funky London t-shirt company Imperfectionist organized two pop-up sales in Exmouth Market, London. The label produced flyers and gathered email addresses from their website, and only told customers where they'd pop up two days before the event. Both times the sale was combined with music and booze, and both times they sold out. (Source: Adrants.)

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Last October, Umbro and Shotgun opened a week long store in London's East End. The featured items included pieces developed in collaboration with fashion designers Kim Jones and Dirk Bikkembergs. (Source: Josh Rubin.)

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Cool Brazilian sandal brand Havaianas set up a temporary summer kiosk in Iguatemi (10 January - 3 February 2005) one of the major shopping malls in Sao Paulo, where customers could choose from 10 colors and prints for the sole, and 10 colors for the straps, plus accessories such as crystals to create their own pair of sandals. (Source: Paula Rizzo, Springspotter Network.)

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NIKE is hitting the road with the Nike Runner's Lounge, a temporary location where athletes can, among other things, rendezvous for a run, get free massages, drinks and snacks and perhaps most significantly, test-drive Nike's line of running shoes. Its first lounge, in Vancouver, which was slated to stay open only from 12 January to 11 February, and was strategically located along Vancouver's Seawall, a major running route in the city, coincided with the preparations for the Vancouver half marathon. However, the lounge became so popular that Nike decided to violate unwritten POP-UP RETAIL rules and keep it open until May 31st.

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From Milan comes APE Malandra, a mobile pop-up clothing store that caters to women and children. The store has three wheels: it's housed in an APE Piaggio, a small vehicle by Piaggio, creating a mini store wherever it chooses to park. Besides Milan, chic winter retreats and summer resorts like Forte dei Marmi, the fashionable sea resort near Florence are game for APE Malandra. Owner Ferlini already has a women's fashion boutique on Via Montenapoleone selling her comfortable and stylish designs that she refers to as "unique but classical," as well as a children's clothing store on Corso di Porta Romana.

And there's more popping up in Milano these days: a Lancome Peeling pop-up store appeared on the Via Sant'Andrea, one of the city's top designer's streets from 17-28 February, promoting Lancome's new Resurance peeling treatment. Outside the store, a red flashing sign indicated how many days were left till closing. (Source: Springspotter Network, Maurizio Serena.)

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More Levi's and Unilever: Levi's recently toured the Philippines in a converted container van, visiting universities and selling students jeans at steep discounts. Not to be outdone, Unilever's Ponds came up with their own Spa Bus that toured various cities. The bus was outfitted with a wash tub and a spa chair, joining a long list of mobile pop-up pioneers like The London Fashion Bus, Brazilian Oceanic and Vacant. (Source: Springspotter Network, Ruby Gan.)

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POP-UP RETAIL players we reported on earlier on, continue to surprise easily-bored consumers:

Vacant's Hummers were traveling through Europe and North America last fall and winter, selling sneakers, designer toys, shirts and jackets. Now Vacant has opened up its first permanent space, in department store Marshall Field's in Chicago. But in keeping with the exclusivity angle, only members who have signed up will be allowed entry; furthermore, stock is limited and will be updated constantly.

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Although Comme des Garcons' first guerrilla store in Berlin has now closed down (exactly after one year, as they promised at its opening), a hybrid Colette Meets Comme des Garçons Guerrilla store did brisk business in Tokyo from August to December last year. The website is still active, at www.colettemeetscommedesgarcons.com. Europe to follow?

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After the success of its Chris Madden pop-up store, JCPenney opened a one-week, 5th Ave. pop-up last September to launch designer Colin Cowie's exclusive bridal collection for the chain, as well as JCPenney's revamped bridal registry. The store was open one week, and hosted four "instant weddings" on the opening day.

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Target, in October of last year, opened its umpteenth pop-up store: a one month outlet in New York City's Times Square, selling its exclusive Pink collection of everything from candles to cashmere scarves and baseball t-shirts. All proceeds from the store benefited the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

POP-UP RETAIL is everywhere, and here to stay in various shapes and forms: time for you to really get busy, and time for us to spot the Next Big Thing in Retail (could it be... Ambient Sales? Stay tuned ;-) >> Email this trend to a friend.