NEW YORK (
) -- Pop-up stores -- temporary boutiques designed to stay open for a set period of time - are becoming an appealing way for businesses to drum up brand buzz while boosting revenue. It also doesn't hurt that there's an abnormally large amount of vacant real estate to choose from thanks to the weak economy.
"For a small or big store, pop-up retail offers consumers a sense of urgency and human nature responds to that," says Alexandra Sotereanos, a senior manager with retail consultancy
last year opened a pop-up version of France's trendy
boutique in one of its Manhattan stores and sold only Colette goods at that location for a month. The U.S. Potato Board opened a four-day store in New York City's Times Square last Thanksgiving that touted the nutritional value of spuds.
It's a concept that's not just for big businesses. New York accessories designer Matthew Waldman this week wrapped up his first pop-up experience, calling the six-week store a "great success."
Waldman launched his
line of watches in December 2005. His products can be found in boutiques in New York, Tokyo, France, the Netherlands and
When Waldman branched out into belts, wallets and fragrance, he decided a pop-up shop would give him better control of his brand than if he were to sell his goods through an established store. A consultant advising Waldman on the launch suggested Den, a pop-up space run by the Manhattan boutique Odin.
"We needed a space that was going to create a brand environment and offer an experience of all of our products as a cohesive brand," he says.
To use Odin's space, Waldman had to cover the costs of Odin's staff at the store. Nooka, which has eight full-time employees and $1.7 million in revenue, secured a profit while gaining exposure to a new crowd.
Matt Gatti, executive director of the Washington-based Retail and Advertising Marketing Association, says he's seen all kinds of business relationships when it comes to pop-up retail. Some small firms pay a premium to lease prime real estate, but some larger stores offer space for free because the popups brings new products to attract customers, he says.
In today's ailing economy, there's a lot of available space to rent. "It's not so hard to get a great deal for a short period of time," he says, and it doesn't lock a business owner into a long-term lease.
The expense may pay off in multiple ways. The pop-up gave Nooka an "amazing amount of online blog press, which was great exposure," says Waldman, adding that it helped that the store opened during a week when many accessory buyers were in the city.
Waldman says the experience helped him learn what works in retail and understand his customers better. He realized, for example, that he needed to market his Nooka products more aggressively to New Yorkers instead of tourists.
"It's a great, affordable way to dip your toes into retail," he says.
He plans to recreate the experience in Tokyo this fall.
Gatti says the pop-up concept "is nowhere near the end of its lifecycle. It's a great idea to test new styles and try out a new market."
-- Reported by Sharon McLoone for MainStreet.
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This article was written by a staff member of MainStreet.com.