Pop-up retail

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Sprout by HP Mobile Shipping container pop-up truck activation
HBO Game of Thrones container pop-up in Los Angeles
The Beatles double-decker pop-up shop in New York City
Marmite pop-up shop in London
Baracuta pop-up shop in London

Pop-up retail, also known as pop-up store (pop-up shop in the UK, Australia and Ireland) or flash retailing, is a trend of opening short-term sales spaces in Canada, the United States,[1][2] the United Kingdom and Australia.[3]


The Ritual Expo was one of the first iterations of the pop-up retail store.[4] Not yet referred to as pop-up retail, the 1997 Los Angeles event was created by Patrick Courrielche and was later branded as a one-day "ultimate hipster mall.” The event quickly caught the eye of large brands that saw the potential of creating short-term experiences to promote their products to target audiences. AT&T, Levi-Strauss, and Motorola worked with Courrielche to create pop-up shopping experiences across the country to market their products to young audiences.[5][6]

In November 2002, discount retailer Target took over a 220-foot-long boat at Chelsea Piers for a two-week stay on the Hudson River that coincided with Black Friday.[7] Vacant of Los Angeles, California arrived in New York in February 2003, working with Dr. Martens on a pop-up space at 43 Mercer Street.[8][9][10]

Song Airlines opened a pop-up shop in New York City in 2003. Comme des Garçons opened, for one year, a pop-up shop in 2004 with the 'Guerrilla Shop' tag. Trendwatching.com claims to have coined the term "Pop-Up Retail" in January 2004.[11] In November 2013, Samsung opened a pop-up shop in New York City's Soho area that worked as a brand experience space. The temporary pop-up space was extended and eventually became a permanent retail space. [12] In July 2015 Fourth Element opened the world's first underwater popup shop at a depth of 6 metres / 19 feet TEKCamp.2015. [13]

Other brands that have developed pop-up shops as part of their campaigns include Kate Spade, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Colette.


A pop-up retail space is a venue that is temporary: the space could be a sample sale one day and host a private cocktail party the next evening. The trend involves "popping up" one day, then disappearing anywhere from one day to several weeks later. These shops, while small and temporary, can build up interest by consumer exposure. Pop-up retail allows a company to create a unique environment that engages their customers and generates a feeling of relevance and interactivity. They are often used by marketers for seasonal items such as Halloween costumes and decorations, Christmas gifts and Christmas trees, or fireworks.[1]

There are different benefits to popups such as marketing, testing products, locations, or markets, and as a low cost way to start a business. Some pop up shops, such as Ricky's and other Halloween stores, are seasonal, allowing brands to capture foot traffic without committing to a long term lease.[14] Other brands use pop-ups to create engagement, such as Marc Jacobs Tweet Shop's exchange of "social currency" for free product [15] and King and McGaw who used a pop-up to exhibit and sell prints from the Mourlot Studios in Soho, London.[16]

Halloween stores[edit]

A Halloween store is a pop-up store or superstore that sells costumes and decorations for Halloween. They are very common in the United States and to some extent Canada, where the holiday and celebration preceding it are second only to Christmas in popularity and consumer spending but are not very common in the UK. Hundreds of stores are open during the season each year.

The stores are unique in that they serve a seasonal niche market, and nearly all of them are open only during September and October. They typically have a lease of around three months, hiring managers in July and doing store setup in late August, with a teardown (often after a very short closeout sale) in early November. The stores typically open around Labor Day in the US (also Labour Day in Canada), but this varies by a week or two in either direction. Not all of the stores from the same retailer will open at the same time because of logistics.

The stores typically occupy a large anchor store in a strip mall, and change locations each year, based on whatever stores are vacant and available each autumn. While many operate as a retail chain, some stores may be run by franchisees, selling merchandise on consignment. Some have a combination of both types of stores.

Stores are typically located in middle-class areas, where residents and shoppers have higher disposable incomes to spend on Halloween parties and costumes. The annual temporary specialty stores succeed because they offer a much wider and more unique variety of items than what is seen at other retailers such as discount stores or department stores and because they tend to offer items of higher quality and detail (and profit), compared to the inexpensive (or often downright cheap) costumes at drugstores and supermarkets. The stores typically sell large and unusual items like animatronic witches and other ghoulish characters, and various other stage props; as well as a range of makeup, wigs, fog machines, strobe lights, blacklights, and other items sold at regular stores.

Because the stores are only temporary, they often use employees as sign wavers on a nearby street corner to attract the attention of passing motorists. In place of store signs, they display large banners, which can be stored and reused the following year. Telephone numbers are typically disconnected and not reused, and online mapping services often show locations of the previous year. Because of this, the only reliable source of store addresses and contact information is each company's website, but these are usually posted only after each store opens, possibly to avoid alerting competitors.

There are other shops or stores that exist in a similar manner to Halloween stores. One example are calendar stores that occupy either a mall storefront or large kiosk area between early November and late January. Another type are temporary fireworks stores that operate in many areas of the US on a similar model, leading up to the Fourth of July and, in warm weather areas, to New Years Eve.


  1. ^ a b Gregory, Sean (November 6, 2009). "Why Pop-Up Shops Are Hot". Time. Retrieved November 22, 2009. Ricky's Costume Superstore in New York City was ready for Halloween 
  2. ^ Clifford, Stephanie (October 30, 2008). "Hanging Out at a Mall for the Holidays". The New York Times. Retrieved November 22, 2009. The Haute Spot is a so-called pop-up concept, meaning that the store is not permanent. The location will be open Nov. 28 through Dec. 26. 
  3. ^ Smith, Stephen (December 4, 2009). "The pop-up shopping phenomenon". Newsnight (London: BBC Two). Retrieved January 17, 2010. 
  4. ^ Moore, Booth, (July, 1999) LA Times. "Cutting-Edge Clothes and Music at Ritual Expos." http://articles.latimes.com/1999/jul/09/news/cl-54193
  5. ^ Baltin, Steve, (October, 2000) Chicago Tribune. "Ritual in the Making, Creative Fields Converge To Form Ultimate Hipster Mall In A Nightclub Atmosphere." http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2000-10-11/features/0010100545_1_jed-wexler-ritual-events-walk
  6. ^ Video compilation of some of first pop-up retail stores. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lsX0f7526Zc
  7. ^ Billy Gray (December, 2012) New York Observer. On 10th Anniversary of First NYC Pop-Up, Retailers Look Back.http://commercialobserver.com/2012/12/on-10th-anniversary-of-first-nyc-pop-up-retailers-look-back/
  8. ^ Robb Mandelbaum (June, 2013) New York Times Magazine. Who Made That? Pop-up Store. http://www.nytimes.com/packages/html/magazine/2013/innovations-issue/#/?part=popupstore
  9. ^ Lazarovic, Sarah (March, 2003) Elle Canada. Are pop-up stores the hip new face of retail or a clever marketing ploy to fight consumer fatigue? http://www.ellecanada.com/living/shop-n-go/a/24980
  10. ^ Tzortzis, Andreas (October, 2004) Pop-up stores: here today, gone tomorrow http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/24/business/worldbusiness/24iht-popups25.html?pagewanted=all
  11. ^ Trend Watching, Pop-up Retail, http://trendwatching.com/trends/POPUP_RETAIL.htm
  12. ^ Coleman-Lochner, Lauren (October, 2014) Bloomberg. "NYC's SoHo Serves as Testing Ground for Chobani, Samsung." http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-10-01/nyc-s-soho-serves-as-retail-testing-ground-for-chobani-samsung
  13. ^ https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/fourth-element-launch-worlds-first-pop-down-shop-lunn-roz-?published=u
  14. ^ Bloomberg TV (May, 2014). An Inside Look at the Pop-Up Retail Phenomenon. http://www.bloomberg.com/video/an-inside-look-at-the-pop-up-retail-phenomenon-1nZwFqJ0Ra~ZU3vgwGlkNg.html
  15. ^ Gonzalez, Melissa (December, 2014). The Pop-Up Paradigm: How Brands Build Human Connections in a Digital Age. http://www.amazon.com/The-Pop-Up-Paradigm-Connections-ebook/dp/B00P04ZYRA
  16. ^ http://www.itsnicethat.com/articles/atelier-mourlot

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