eBay opened a “pop-up store” in NYC this past holiday season. eBay wasn’t alone. Pop-up stores hit Boston and many other major metro areas during the 2009 holiday shopping season. This retail trend is both interesting and problematic.
Pop-up stores fill spaces but don’t make places. Pop-up stores add minimal value to communities in the long run. They might add value to emerging neighborhoods by brining short-term buzz and attention but I’m typically not seeing pop-up stores used for this goal (the best and most valuable concept I’ve ever seen in this respect is the Puma City that was in South Boson last summer as part of the Volvo Ocean Race; art galleries are a bright spot as well). The upside for landlords is typically short term cash-flow and some activity in what would otherwise be dark space. Good things? Sure. Ultimately though, from the retailer perspective, pop-up stores are dangerous. If I’m a tenant in a long term lease and an international retailer moves in for 6 weeks of the year, during the busiest weeks of the year and competes with me… well, I’m not going to be happy.
Andrea Chang of the LA Times is dead on in asserting that “Pop-ups’ move to the mainstream was born out of the recession: Desperate landlords are able to fill vacancies in their shopping centers, and nervous retailers can get space for a few weeks or months without signing a long-term lease.” (LA Times 10/17/10) read more…
Pop-up stores haven’t fundamentally changed retail real estate yet but they have the potential to really shake things up – for good and bad. Regardless, pop-up stores are a topic of interest to CityRetail. We fully recognize that a combination of short and long term uses are critical for the creation of exciting city places but we are cognizant of the fact that a balance must be struck. Farmers markets, seasonal beer gardens and food trucks are exciting pop-up type uses but they must be examined as they relate to existing long term retail tenants. We’ll be working on some of these concepts this spring and I’ll post updates herein.