Pop-up stores are blurring the boundaries of traditional retail space to create an experience and deliver visual exciting design.

Pop-stores, also referred to as “flash retailing,” offer consumers spontaneous options as the spaces operate on a temporary basis, adding an element of surprise and urgency to visit and purchase before the store disappears.

Retail owners can also benefit from the concept, which offers them the opportunity to secure flexible, short-term leases in established retail precincts and test the waters for their products and services with low up front costs and without a long-term commitment.

The pop-up concept is not a new one; Vacant, a marketing organisation in Los Angeles, is renowned for pioneering pop-up retail in 1999.

The concept is very popular with food and beverage offerings at festivals and events. Just last month, marketer Jeff George opened a pop-up coffee house and tasting room during the Tour de France’s 100th anniversary. The space, called Hub and Spoke, was only opened part of the day on weekdays and all day on weekends, and included indoor and outdoor seating, televisions and cycling-themed drinks.

pop up store in London

A pop-up store in London during the Olympics

George was looking into how well the concept worked before considering a permanent store residence.

Like this concept, pop-stores are aimed at a new type of shopper called the “transumer.” The term was coined by Fitch, a UK Brand consultancy, and refers to consumers who are in transition. Airports, train stations and hotels are often used for pop-up retail stores as they cater to travellers and people looking for innovative shopping opportunities.

Unlike with traditional retail outlets, the everyday consumer expects pop-up stores to be visually stimulating, with the design on the space of utmost importance.

In pop-up retail, it is not advisable to merely sell a product. Innovation is important and the space should encourage customer interaction and offer learning, resources and the opportunity to receive complimentary samples or trial products.

Seasonal pop-stores are also popular. The concept has been embraced by Celine, a Melbourne company which pops up annually in the CBD – in time for Melbourne’s Spring Racing Carnival – to sell hats and fascinators.

Pink Pop-Up Store

Pink Pop-Up Store, Melbourne

Even pop megastar Pink is getting into the act. She chose Melbourne as the site of her first pop-up store, the opening of which was timed to coincide with her concerts at Rod Laver Arena.

The store offers limited merchandise, interactive exhibits for photo opportunities and spot prizes for autographed items, show tickets and backstage passes. The store has drawn an incredible audience for its exclusivity and will be relocated to Sydney when the pop star performs there later this month.

Dockland Spaces, which is being run by not-for-profit organisation Renew Australia, is negotiating short term, rent-free leases for creative enterprises in empty retail spaces at the Docklands’ Waterfront Piazza. The project is designed to bring people to the area and raise awareness of the waterfront precinct while giving business owners the opportunity to test market their products in a prestigious space for as little as $20 per week.

Australia’s largest property groups, including Lend Lease, Westfield and The GPT Group, are also responding to the pop-up trend with businesses and departments dedicated to solely managing pop-up tenants and enquiries for major shopping centres and precincts across Australia.

Docklands Waterfront Precinct

Docklands Waterfront Precinct

Lend Lease in particular saw a 20 per cent increase in inquiries for pop-up store spaces since the beginning of this year.

The company’s new business manager for pop-up retail, Sally Harding, said that the pop-up offering appeals to a wide variety of brands and attributes the increase to the experimental and novelty elements associated with the pop-up concept.

“We had Oral-B in our centres and they took up an experimental pop-up interactive touch taste smell style. That provides an experience; we want to ensure that our customers are having a positive new product experience,” Harding said.

With the growth of online sales in Australia, pop-up stores also offer a market for online business owners looking to test market their products in a physical environment and gain public consumer awareness.

Australian Retail, Chadstone Shopping Centre

Australian Retail, Chadstone Shopping Centre

Earlier this year, peak retail industry body the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) reported 23 per cent year-on-year growth for online retail sales compared to that of traditional retail sales.

“Many Australian retailers are turning to a multichannel approach by developing an online presence alongside a traditional bricks and mortar stone,” said ARA executive director Russell Zimmerman.

Can pop-up stores really rescue retail? Temporarily, at least, the answer appears to be yes.