Short-term leases on retail spaces offer online retailers an opportunity to bring their products to a wider audience. Offer cool technology or exclusive events and a pop-up store can generate excitement for your brand.

Bart Mroz, founder and CEO, Sumo Heavy

Bart Mroz, founder and CEO, Sumo Heavy

In May 2018 Blue Apron, the meal kit service that launched dozens of look-alike subscription services, announced a national series of pop-up stores to celebrate the perks of “home cooking.” A move to promote the brand’s services to a wider audience, the pop-up events were the first for the ingredient and recipe delivery service.

Blue Apron is just one of many online businesses to put on an experiential event. While pop-up shops have been around for some time, more brands are considering temporary shopping displays thanks to a wealth of now-vacant retail space and a growing population of high-demand customers that want an in-store experience.

While a pop-up shop might not be right for every online business, their success across a variety of retailers suggests that showcasing your newest goods and services for a limited time can be just the ticket to steer your company in the right direction.

More real estate investors are offering monthly or even weekly leases to a growing number of startups and ecommerce stores.

Retail space is available

As online retail grows, many traditional retailers have struggled to adapt to a changing retail landscape. While many storefronts have been left empty as a result, there is one short-term solution to the problem: temporary leasing. Instead of offering long-term leases, more real estate investors are offering monthly or even weekly leases to a growing number of startups and ecommerce stores. While the profit margin isn’t as high, most of them agree that a short lease is better than no lease.


The excitement brought about by an exclusive event can be enough to completely reinvigorate a brand or retailer’s image. St. Ives, an affordable skincare brand that has been on the market for over 60 years, launched its first-ever pop-up shop in SoHo last year. The pop-up, which let customers customize their own face scrubs and body lotions, saw so much success in 2017 that the Mixing Bar has been brought back for a second time, now with an expanded range of made-to-order products.

Consumers crave experiences

One of the main reasons so many retailers have closed their doors is because they failed to create relevant in-store experiences for a growing number of high-demand customers. Millennial consumers, in particular, shop as a pastime. Because they’ve grown up in a technology-centric era, they expect the latest technology to keep them entertained. Smart mirrors and immersive VR [virtual reality] demonstrations are just a few examples of technology that can make a mark in even the smallest spaces.

Last year Marie Claire opened a pop-up experience geared toward fashion, beauty, entertainment, technology and wellness. Though each day offered visitors new experiences, technology played a major role throughout, from interactive fitting rooms to shoppable storefront windows.


It’s a low-risk investment

Like any brick-and-mortar store, pop-ups require planning and an initial investment. But while traditional storefronts don’t leave much wiggle room when it comes to time, risk and costs, pop-up shops can be customized based on the retailer. Retailers on a tight budget should use social media to promote their events and set up shop in busy, public places to gain the most traction. Use mobile-friendly racks and wires to hang garments and other items. Transactions can easily be performed on tablets and smartphones through digital payment systems like Apple Pay.

Australian fashion brand Arnsdorf found a unique and cost-effective way to decorate its pop-up event. Instead of relying on traditional decor, the women’s apparel brand covered its installation in 154 pairs of tights. The artistic, cave-like effect reflected the brand’s aesthetic in a creative way that didn’t break the bank.

The time is now

Even though online retailers rely on the Internet as their digital storefront, an increasingly competitive digital environment is leading many ecommerce stores to bring their brands to life—literally. A pop-up shop can be an affordable yet profitable way to bring your brand’s attention to a new audience and show them a new side of your store that they can’t see online.


Sumo Heavy is a digital commerce consulting and strategy firm.