While industry leaders cut back on their high street presence – or in some cases disappear entirely – a new breed of shops is rapidly gaining ground. Pop-up retail units – sometimes referred to as ‘flash selling’ – take advantage of shorter-term leases, and move elsewhere if customer numbers drop.

For around ten years they’ve presented an opportunity for new players to find niches selling artisan or quirky goods, or new ‘street food’ concepts. However, in recent times their rise is based as much on their commercial benefits for existing retail brands like FILA and Danone.

In its report on 2019 emerging retail trends, CB Insights said: “Beyond digitally native direct-to-consumer start-ups, we are now seeing pop-ups become a staple for all types of retailers, from Alibaba and Amazon to Calvin Klein and Macy’s among others.”

Why Pop-Ups are rising

Existing UK retailers can use pop-ups to experiment with locations, layouts, products, joint ventures or pricing structures. They can also gain valuable insights into customer reactions and buying behaviour, or sell off stock at reduced prices without devaluing brand positioning at mainstream stores.

Testing new locations with a pop-up enterprise doesn’t have to be restricted to shopping hot spots either, and can be developed at tourist attractions, events and historic buildings.

Research suggests that launching a pop-up shop is around less than setting up traditional retail outlets.

Once experimentation has concluded, companies can vacate the premises ‘overnight’ without concerns about lease terms, maintenance or anti-vandal measures.

From another angle, the era of pop-up shops could increasingly breathe new life into struggling city streets and town centres, scarred by long-empty units. 

Supply and demand

Appear Here is a major player in helping retailers to find spaces for pop-up ventures, offering shop locations in cities around the world that can be rented by the month, week or even day. It supports hundreds of shop openings annually.

Founder Ross Bailey has been quoted in the media saying: “The death of the high street is grossly exaggerated. It dies when it’s homogenous and uninteresting. When it’s done right, it’s a totally different story.”

The concept of temporary shops dovetails with other global trends for quick fixes and flexible arrangements – as shown by the rise of Uber, Airbnb and WeWork.

It also panders to consumer hunger for things that are new, limited edition or more personal. Having a shop that’s available only in the short term cashes in on initial launch interest, and implies an urgency to visit ‘while you can’.

What does the pop-up shop phenomenon mean in terms of retail executive search? It does require entrepreneurial-minded managers, versatile enough to develop shorter-term ideas and selling channels.

To find decision-makers with innovative solutions to bricks and mortar retailing, the team at Anthony Gregg would be happy to ‘pop-up’ and help.