WHAT IS A POP-UP SHOP?

A new form of retailing has emerged in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Japan, and other countries. It’s called the pop-up shop. It is a temporary storefront or restaurant or musical venue that suddenly pops-up and remains there for a day or several weeks or several months. Then overnight it disappears.

A pop-up shop may appear in a busy shopping mall or in a regional fire museum or in an empty storefront downtown. You might even see one in a train station. Any empty storefront has the potential to become a pop-up shop.

A pop-up shop generates excitement and publicity. It creates a buzz among potential customers. Since it will soon disappear, the public feels a sense of urgency to go to the shop.

Some retailers use pop-up shops to launch new products. JC Penney, Gap, and Target have hosted pop-ups in their stores. Other retailers use pop-up stores to put a spin on an old, established brand. Fruit of the Loom, the maker of inexpensive, packaged underwear, recently opened a pop-up shop called “Fruit.” The boutique was created to look like a high-end shop with over-priced undergarments hanging from tree branches. Fruit sold only Fruit of the Loom undergarments, but shoppers bought the merchandise because of the “luxury” appearance of the shop.

Restaurants have often opened as pop-up shops. Instead of installing a huge, expensive sign to hang on a building, the owner of the pop-up shop places an old-fashioned signboard on the sidewalk in front of the shop. The restaurant usually has a limited menu.

Birds Eye, the frozen food giant, recently opened a temporary restaurant in London to generate free publicity about Birds Eye’s Inspirations line of product. Instead of paying for their meals, diners could take a snap of their meal and post it on Instagram with the hashtag #BirdsEyeInspirations.

Even eBay has opened a seasonal pop-up shop in London to promote its brand. The 2016 shop told the customer which Christmas presents to buy based on his facial reactions.

A related concept, the pop-up event, has gained momentum. For example, an organization called ACTIVATE has recently transformed alleys in Chicago’s Loop into a series of pop-up events featuring music, art, dancers, food trucks, and more. The dates for 2017 events are June 15, July 20, August 24, and September 28. Locations are announced two weeks prior to each event.

—By Karen Centowski


To see a video about pop-up events in alleys in Chicago’s Loop, go to www.loopchicago.com/activate.