In the past, we’ve talked a lot of the benefits of pop up shops, from taking advantage of a peak period, such as the holiday season, to creating a buyer frenzy with limited engagements. One thing we haven’t touched on much, however, is how brands can use them to test a particular market before launching a traditional permanent store in the same area.
This is a great benefit for companies that know the demographics of an area and think they’ll be well-received by the community, but aren’t ready to sign onto a lengthy lease with any degree of uncertainty. Although a lot of these ventures fly under the radar because companies tend to keep their strategies hush-hush, a few have openly admitted they were testing the waters.
Fashion brand UNIQLO wasn’t too sure it would get a following in Manhattan. Although the Japanese company had become popular throughout Asia and Europe by that point, it was questionable whether a company that prides itself on “simplicity, quality, and longevity,” as well as reasonable prices, could actually find a permanent home in the City That Never Sleeps.
Instead of diving in head first, UNIQLO opened up a grouping of oddly-shaped stalls in Bryant Park first. Sure enough, New Yorkers were drawn to the oddities, and the brand later committed to a nearly 90,000 square-foot space on prestigious Fifth Avenue.
2) In-N-Out Pop Up Shops
If you’re not familiar with the American burger chain In-N-Out, you may have been living under a rock when they were here in Dublin in 2015. According to RetailWire, the company has also opened pop up shops in Peru, Chile, Russia, Ukraine, England, Spain, Australia, Southeast Asia, and Canada- all with great success. Whilst visiting London, people waited in line for as many as four hours to get a taste, and they sold out in less than one.
Carl Van Fleet, VP of Planning and Development admitted that the company was not set on opening up in any particular location in the immediate future, but he also added, “We have done events like this before in other countries, and they are just one part of our efforts to promote and expand our brand, as well as determine the best way to continue reaching out to customers around the world.” (That certainly sounds like exec speak for “We’re testing where we can launch,” though mum’s the word from In-N-Out.)
World-renowned backpack-maker JanSport undoubtedly had a brilliant idea when the company opted to open a back-to-school backpack pop up shop a few years ago. The temporary venture performed so well that company officials decided to extend it and see if a long-term option would continue to serve them just as well.
Whilst we love success stories as much as the next person, JanSport’s isn’t one of them, but it does highlight the importance of testing. The ongoing pop up that was left open after school started tanked. Sales were so dismal that the brand abandoned the kiosk and handed it over to another business for the duration of the lease. “Outside of back-to-school, we kind of struggled a little bit in leveraging the same kind of volume,” VP of Sales Rico Pasqualini told reporters.
Despite that a long-term venture wasn’t in the cards for JanSport, the good news is that their decision to pop up was smart because it saved them untold hardship over being tied to an impossible long-term venture.