5 Brands Proving That Pop-Up Stores Pay Off

5 Brands Proving That Pop-Up Stores Pay Off

Pop-up stores—once the domain of online brands making the leap to brick-and-mortar, or fashion labels trying their hand at experiential marketing—have evolved to become a major driver of growth and brand equity. 

Indeed, pop-up stores allow established retailers to grow while keeping their costs in check. With as many as 6,000 stores closing in America this year, by some estimates, brands are under pressure to rethink their physical footprints and the experiences they deliver.

Pop-ups started off as a trend for smaller, even emerging brands, since these shops offer a way to test new tactics at a temporary location without committing to a long-term lease. However, today major retailers, such as Nordstrom and Amazon. are increasingly using longer term pop-ups to test the viability of stores in different locations.

That said, pop-ups deliver value beyond cost savings. They also help brands attract new customers, experiment with store layouts and experiences, and get closer to their audiences. Below, we focus on how five brands are using pop-ups to set themselves apart and grow.

Nike: Giving Back With Virgil Abloh

To stand out in the hotly contested sneaker and streetwear market, Nike is building stronger connections with its customers through direct sales. The company’s stock has been on a tear as a result, and while much of its success comes from online sales, Nike’s unique take on pop-up experiences has helped it build fan favor on a new scale. 

This past May, the company collaborated with fashion icon Virgil Abloh to open a temporary “Lab” in Chicago. Abloh and a star-studded lineup of creatives hosted a series of workshops in the Lab for local architects and designers, bringing inspiration to the city’s top talent. For their part, visitors were granted access to exclusive Nike products. 

NikeLab pop-up store

The space itself was also stunning, earning a full spread in Dezeen, an architecture and design magazine, for its industrial-chic aesthetic. This is not the first time Nike has bridged fashion with other forms of design—an approach that legitimizes the brand with both die-hard streetwear fans and the artistic community.

Nike and Abloh’s pop-up was more than just an exercise in aesthetics and branding; it was an opportunity to show the community what it cares about. For example, the stools used in the Lab were all made from Nike Grind, a material composed of recycled Nike products. Come February, the material will be used to build a community basketball court, just in time for Chicago to host the 2020 NBA All-Star Game.

Bloomingdales: Rethinking Retail Theater

In late 2018, Bloomingdales revealed a complete overhaul of its New York City flagship store. The centerpiece of the new space was The Carousel, a theatrically inspired pop-up on the ground floor. Instead of building displays around products and brands, the Carousel features a rotating selection of items that changes each month based on a new theme. 

For Bloomingdales CMO Frank Berman, cultural significance is essential. “We created the Carousel … to address what is important and timely in our customers’ lives,” he told Forbes. This approach gives curators license to think beyond Bloomingdales’ fashion and home décor brands and include any product that ties back to the month’s theme.

For instance, the Carousel’s Earth Day display included an installation from Windex, which had developed a new bottle made from 100% recycled plastic and wanted to draw attention to the rising impact of plastic waste. 

The Co-op: A Smarter Way To Feed Festival-Goers

The U.K.’s Glastonbury Festival is one of the world’s most popular performing arts festivals. More than 200,000 people make the pilgrimage to Somerset’s Worth Farm each year for a five-day celebration of music, dance, theater, poetry, comedy, and more. Brands invited to Glastonbury benefit from exposure to a large captive audience, but the products they sell–specifically food and drinks–create a great deal of waste.

Enter the Co-up, the only national grocer in England to appear at Glastonbury in the event’s 48-year history. Setting up in a 6,000-square-foot wooden barn, the Co-op ensured that all of its packaging–from sandwich bags to food labels–was 100% compostable. The grocery chain also sold water in refillable aluminum cans in keeping with the festival’s ban of plastic water bottles. 

Co-up

With sustainability a major focus for festival-goers, and particularly for younger generations, the Co-op’s eco-friendly approach was not just ethically sound, it was also an ideological coup. What better way to drive sales and build a rapport with a core demographics, all while establishing its brand at the forefront of positive change?

Lululemon: Flexing Its Approach For Growth

While most retailers struggle to maintain market share, Lululemon is thriving. The company’s revenue rose 22% as of its latest earnings report, while in-store sales jumped 15%.

Much of Lululemon’s in-store success comes down to how it manages real estate. Rather than setting up permanent outlets at every new location, the company uses seasonal pop-up stores to build awareness for its brand and test the viability of a market before committing to a permanent store.

This approach is not only cost-efficient, it also resonates with customers. According to Celeste Burgoyne, executive VP of Lululemon’s Americas business, the company opened 60 of its seasonal stores in North America in 2018, and 35% of shoppers in these locations were new ones.

Crucially, Lululemon understands that variety is essential. The company plans to open more seasonal stores in the coming years but will continue mixing up its real-estate portfolio. This year saw Lululemon open its largest location ever in Chicago’s Lincoln Park. The 20,000-square-foot behemoth offers workout classes, changing rooms, and an on-site restaurant, allowing customers to enjoy the Lululemon lifestyle while enjoying its products under one roof.

Taylor Swift And Stella McCartney: Making Star Power Count

To launch her hotly anticipated clothing line with fashion icon Stella McCartney, Taylor Swift opened two pop-ups. The first was digital–shoppers could buy items for only a limited time online to maintain exclusivity. The second was a two-day storefront on New York’s 10th Avenue, where fans could buy the pieces in person and cross their fingers for a celebrity sighting or two.

The savvy Swift did not disappoint. After announcing the pop-up on her YouTube channel, she dropped in on opening day to take photos with fans while wearing pieces from the new collection. Swift’s star power was not the only reason for the pop-up’s success. Rather than selling through a traditional retailer, the artist made a point of taking the collection directly to her audience and making the experience both intimate and memorable.  

This final point is also the most important. Each of the brands above has approached pop-ups differently, but what unifies them is a focus on the customer experience above all else. They understand that people need a compelling reason to visit a store. Their success is a ringing endorsement for pop-ups as a medium for testing new ideas as well as inspiring customers to make the trip into a store. 

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