Pop-up spaces – for more variety in retail

As though out of the blue, a new store appears and a space that has been empty up until that point suddenly becomes a cool location. Pop-up stores work according to this principle: they pop up and then they disappear again. 

They are not intended to be there forever, but they generate unexpected experiences in brick-and-mortar retail and provide for entertaining surprises. Manufacturers use them to launch new products or, by using limited editions, to create desire for covetable items. Pop-up stores are experiencing a boom; they fill up voids and inject a breath of fresh air to city centres.

How can you use the pop-up concept in your own store?

In retail, exceptional and innovative concepts are, now more than ever before, leading to sales success. This means it is worth allocating an area on the sales floor for use as a pop-up location, i.e. an area that "reinvents" itself at regular intervals, an area for promotions and events in which products targeted at a specific group can be staged. A special area where customers can discover limited editions and experience brand-name manufacturers in a tactile way. 

Creating a staged space

Events and promotions have been around in retail for a long time already but the pop-up space goes one step further and creates a "room within a room" that is tailored specifically towards the target group or the product. A floor covering that suits the particular theme will set the space apart from the rest of the store on an optical level. Products are presented on unusual product displays, meaning maybe you have a fountain pen lying on a vintage workbench or a new series of sustainable notebooks and pens presented on wooden coat hangers suspended from a tree... A pop-up space is not a nicely decorated table with goods. It is a visual and spatial experience that provides an incentive for customers to stop by more often.

Events and promotions with pop-up character

Instead of a creative craft demonstration at a table, the pop-up space could be used twice a year for a week at a time as the creative space for a popular DIY blogger. An event like this goes well and truly beyond simple shopping and creates a space for encounters, inspiration, and live experiences. If this promotion is accompanied by a well-thought-out communication strategy that aims to go viral on social media (i.e. through word of mouth), this often provides for hype amongst the relevant community. The result? Soon everyone will be talking about the promotion and the store.

With a photo booth on the event floor, the customer gets a souvenir photo to take home with them. The opportunity to create a personalised product themselves, or a special giveaway – creative and unique rather than run-of-the-mill – increases the number of positive memories and the customer will go on to tell others about their experience, both online and offline.

Why not open a pop-up store yourself?

It may even be worth considering opening a pop-up store in another part of town for a few weeks, in addition to your own store. This could be in a location with more footfall or in a shopping mall, in order to speak to a new target group. Even voids in the vicinity of your own shop can be used occasionally as a pop-up space and be arranged visually in an entirely new and surprising way. 

For example, this area could be transformed a few weeks before the start of the school term into a historic classroom. With antique school desks, a blackboard and old class photos, you can replicate a classroom and create an emotional experience that turns the chore of buying jotters and pens into something special. Or, an obstacle course provides the opportunity to try out a range of school bags, in parallel to the manufacturers offering advice or personalisation of the school bag using stickers or spray paint. 

There is no end to the possibilities and ideas relating to the theme of pop-up spaces. When planning, it is the visual design, the inspiration and the experience which should always be priority number one – this is where brick-and-mortar retailers can really score points over the internet. Pop-up spaces in which there is always something new to experience will turn a store into "the place to be".

About the author:

Sabine Gauditz is an expert in visual retail marketing and author of the German book "Schaufenster als Spiegel der Geschäfte" (The shop window as the mirror of the shop). Her consulting firm for visual marketing, Arte Perfectum, focuses on practical solutions delivered in presentations, seminars, workshops and in-house consulting sessions.

Would you like to learn more about the stationery industry?

Expert knowledge, practical tips for retailers and the latest industry developments. Stay well informed at all times with the Insights-X newsletter.

I am interested as a: