Using Pop-Up Shops to Bring Customers Back to Physical Retail

The idea of a pop-up shop is not new in the retail sector but, with the continued growth of e-commerce, retailers are looking for new ways to offer fresh experiences and draw customers back to their stores. Brick-and-mortar storefronts give retailers a stage to create excitement and buzz around their brand and new product launches. In the age of ‘phygital,’ pop-up shops can be the connection point between digital shoppers and a brand’s physical environment.

Re-Inventing a Brand

Pop-up shops are a way for retailers to “re-invent” themselves to consumers, create new experiences and even offer a broader range of goods or services. For example, we have seen banks team up with coffee shops to drive additional foot traffic to a business which has evolved to be digital. On a larger scale, we’ve seen big-box retailers carve out space for other brands to allow the opportunity to re-invent and re-strategize their business model. These partnerships result in an increase in foot traffic and offer a unique experience which brings different demographics of shoppers together, ultimately expanding the audience for both brands.

Temporary locations offer retailers an opportunity to test a new brand or concept without the long-term commitment of a brick-and-mortar store. They also provide ways for retailers to reach customers that otherwise would not be able to walk about the space. One example is when Nike created a pop-up shop at the College World Series which allowed fans to purchase gear while they watched their favorite teams.

Creating Unique Experiences

Another key example can be found in the cosmetic industry, currently the leader in the pop-up shop trend, with the partnership between Kohl’s and Sephora. Truly embracing the ‘phygital’ concept, these temporary locations create demand, or the feeling of missing out, by hosting short-term, exclusive pop-up events in their stores. Through collaboration with social media influencers, these brands harness the power of followers and organically drive marketing through shoppers’ social media accounts as they engage with the pop-up locations.

Malls are using pop-up shops to create storefront opportunities for Etsy retailers and other online businesses that otherwise would not have the opportunity for a storefront. Consumers who are aware of a retailer’s online presence have the opportunity to interact with the brand in a physical location and make local social connections. We have also seen retailers collaborate with local artists which gives national retailers the hyper-local feel that many consumers are looking to support.

Low Risk, High Reward

Pop-up shops not only offer a new consumer experience, but they also give retailers a short-term, minimal investment opportunity. With little capital, brands can use temporary fixturing, digital signage and whimsical décor to create buzz and excitement. In addition to retailers, many landlords are benefitting from the pop-up trend. Property owners are using these short-term leases to drive tenants to their vacant mall spaces. 2021 is seeing the lowest vacancy rates for landlords since 2015 (source: Though the pop-up shop is a short-term deal, many choose to extend leases or even become a permanent shop based on their success. This partnership provides more revenue for brands and property owners alike.

Pop-up shops give retailers a canvas to excite their consumers with new engaging and exciting spaces. The flexibility these shops allow with landlords creates a win-win and offers opportunities for collaboration with store-within-a-store concept to bring in local and digital brands that otherwise would not have a physical space. This idea of bridging the gap between the e-commerce trend of the past 15 months and the traditional shopping experience will be the key to getting consumers back into brick-and-mortar stores.

About the Author:

Megan Whitman, AIA, IIDA, LEED AP ID+C, is a Vice President in our Kansas City office and has been with BRR for 15 years. She leads a team of designers working on projects for the firm’s grocery and retail markets. Megan is a top-notch client manager, exceeding expectations from project to project and delivering innovative design solutions which meet our clients’ needs. She currently leads a large, nationwide program for a national retailer, working in concert with the clients’ team on the multi-faceted and complex program. She is instrumental in the firm’s Retail Innovation efforts and helps research and implement innovative retail solutions for our clients. Email her.