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The economic downturn in Australia was awful. Businesses lost customers, people lost jobs and the country as a whole lost a lot of the optimism that made it famous. However, it never lost the resolve it’s also famous for! One such example is the explosion of the pop-up shop phenomenon. While not a new concept, pop-ups are once again a common feature on famous high streets, reactive laneways, residential neighbourhoods and even glossy shopping centres across the country. In the UK and the US – where the economic hit much harder and much sooner than this side of the world – pop-up stores are dominating the retail industries, contributing billions of dollars to their respective economies. But why have they become so popular and how can you jump on the bandwagon?
 
What’s driving the resurgence?
Short-term leasing (a lot less sexy a name right?) is not a new concept, having been around for decades. However, as our economy continued to grow during the turn of the century, landlords were able to command higher, longer-term leases and booming businesses were profitable and abundant enough to be lining up to accept them. As a result, short-term leasing started to disappear. Then, as things started to go pear-shaped, businesses couldn’t commit to longer leases and landlords started to find it harder to get people in. At them same time, the growth in online shopping was starting to hit brands and businesses who were finding it hard to attract people back into their bricks and mortar stores.
 
Over the last 5 years, listing and booking short-term space by the hour, day, week or month has started to suit both the building-owners and businesses once more. Not only that, it’s also creating a whole new touchpoint for brave brands to reconnect with their technology-obsessed advocates back here in the three-dimensional world.
 
The pick of the pop-ups
So who’s doing it well and what exactly are they doing? Well, in 2014, Aussies went crazy for Japanese retail giant Uniqlo’s temporary store on Melbourne’s Swanston Street. Expectant crowds lined the streets to get a taste of what was to come when the brand finally opened their permanent flagship store later on that year.
 
Another very famous pop-up you may have seen widely celebrated online was Adidas’s unique offering in London’s Shoreditch. For just three days, a giant shoebox containing an interactive floor, interactive digital signage kiosks and even a 3D-printing station welcomed shoppers in to celebrate the launch of their new Stan Smith collection.
 
And who can forget the entire pop-up district Re:START, which the resolute people of Christchurch constructed after an earthquake destroyed their CBD. A fleet of second-hand shipping containers were brought in to provide creative businesses and their loyal consumers with a safe, clean and unique place to shop in.
 
Why you should consider jumping on he bandwagon
Together with digital communications company EE, The Centre for Economics and Business Research found that there are over 23,000 people employed in pop-up stores in the UK, the Mecca of the pop-up world. In fact, they found that pop-ups add €2.6 billion to the UK economy every year. What’s most interesting though is that they expect that in the next 12 months, the industry will grow by 8.4 per cent.
 
Top tips for pop-ups
Got a new product you want to test the waters with? Thinking of opening a new store but want to trial the location first? Or are you just looking to have a bit of fun and attract new customers? Whatever your reasons, if you’re considering opening a pop-up store of your own, here’s some things to first consider.
 
Location. Location. Location
Don’t just look for somewhere cheap, somewhere ‘hip’ or somewhere unique. No matter how long you are going to pop up for, there’s no point in doing it at all if you don’t get the footfall. While pop-up stores do quite well in major cities like Melbourne and Sydney, operating in areas that don’t have a major retail presence can be difficult. If it’s not a busy place today, it’s not going to magically become a busy place once you’re there. So research any prospective locations, talk to real estate agents and even drop by other local businesses to get their take on the place.
 
Creativity always catches the eye
Yes location is important but there’s no point in finding the perfect place only to build something no one will ever notice (or care about). One of the whole points of a pop-up is to do something different. Otherwise they’re just ‘stores’. There is nothing traditional about pop-up shops, so don’t be ‘traditional’ in your thinking. Experiment, explore, test, and even do things you wouldn’t normally dream of doing. Most of all, have fun because that is the essence of pop-ups and also what sorts the successful ones from the flops.
 
Don’t be confined by walls
Some of the most popular restaurants started out as humble food trucks that mosey from place to place promoting their brand with new audiences every day. Even Coca Cola-owned giant Innocent Smoothies started out as a table and two bins at a festival. But if you do find yourself tied to one spot, don’t think that it has to be a roof on four walls. Huts, tents, storage containers, shoeboxes (literally), there are no rules when it comes to pop-ups.
 
Promote your pop-up
Like most things nowadays, creating buzz is key to attracting customers to your pop-up. So use all the usual avenues – email marketing, social media or even direct mail – to build anticipation, create a fuss, drum up support, invent a little mystique, promote offers and stay connected with your customers. If you build it they will come… but not if they don’t know it exists.