Are Holiday Pop-Ups Worth It For Business Owners?

A pop-up retail space is a temporary space open for a specific period of time, normally one or two months.  Examples of pop-up uses include sample sales, Halloween, and Christmas stores.

There are many benefits of pop-up shops, one being that business owners do not have to sign a long-term lease.  It is also a relatively low-cost way to start a business.  Other reasons include media attention, testing products, locations, or markets.

SoHo has become a mecca for pop-up shops over the past few years.  Brands such as Dockers, Eight O’Clock Coffee, Nordstrom, and Birchbox have all successfully hosted pop-up’s.

Dockers Pop-Up

Dockers Pop-Up

There are other pop-ups, however, which have failed, most recently these in 2014:  Velcro, Zady, Republic Collective, Creeds Collective and SoHo Holiday Collective {seems if you put “collective” in a pop-up name, its doomed to fail}

So…are holiday pop-ups worth it for business owners, and specifically, in SoHo?

First we need to look at the two approaches companies take when operating holiday pop-ups in SoHo:

  • Approach one:  One company leases one temporary space
  • Examples include Birchbox Man @ 1 Prince, Velcro @ 199 Lafayette, and Zady @ 44 Mercer
  • Pros:  Brand Management (you don’t have to worry that other “lessor” brands will be alongside), consistency of popup on corporate website, control
  • Cons:  Time management of press & media, costs of setting-up/demolishing and hiring staff rest solely upon one company
  • Pros:  Project management is outsourced, costs are shared
  • Cons:  Sharing space with companies you might not agree with ethical practices or product, website quality

Look how {horrible} the website for “SoHo Holiday Collective” looks:

soho holiday collective

While some companies succeed each year as a popup and become permanent stores (examples include Birchbox (operated as a popup Holiday 2013) and Eva Shaw Designs (participated in Creeds Collective in December 2012), other stores are overwhelmingly disappointed.

One of the brands at Republic Collective this year wrote:  “shitty popup…not heavily trafficked”.  The turnout must have been so unimpressive that the Republic Collective started advertising on Facebook the last two days of their event.  Even though the pop-up ended 20 days ago, there are still ads on our Facebook page:

C7C982DD-FC74-41FA-9BE2-47589EEE025F

It’s a bait and switch…The Republic Collective promoted the need for businesses in a press release:

  • PITCH

Where: Soho, New York
When: Holiday Season 2014
Cost to be a member: 5k – 15k per month
Amenities: Event space & Event aid, Sales Associates, Fixtures, Internet, Cleaning, Security, Electricity, Marketing & PR, Retail & Ecommerce Strategy consultation, Republic Collective Ratification Seal
Available spots: 10-20

  • REALITY:  Republic Collective found a hodge-podge of 18 brands to participate in their popup, ranging from menswear, mens footwear, womens ready-to-wear, houseware, etc.  There was no consistency, on price-point, target audience, or marketing campaign.

Assuming each of these 18 brands paid $5,000, Republic Collective raised around $90,000.  If one of the agreements is to split a portion of revenue, the Republic Collective could have raised even more.

In theory, it sounds like a no-brainer for businesses…but in reality, its a mirage of companies giving, but not receiving an equal benefit.

We could also use “Creeds Collective” as another example (since at this point you all might be thinking we’re hating on Republic Collective).  On their website,

Creeds Collective is the love child of Creeds of Love and Concept Collective. We’ve partnered this coming holiday season to create a socially responsible interactive Holiday Pop Up Shop.

The brands appearing in Creeds Collective are said to go through a “Corporate Responsibility Vetting Process”

Creeds

This includes, charitable contributions, made in USA, cruelty free, fair trade, sustainable eco friendly, empowering females, buy one-give one, and building communities.
While we bet that most of these companies do check off one or two of this “Creed”, we can guarantee that doesn’t drive traffic to the store.
The Creeds Collective website was definitely the best out of all three market places, but after speaking with one of the participants, they said Creeds Collective was unable to drive traffic to their pop-up.
This is a consistent story with the other pop-ups.
In summary, the only winners are those hosting the pop-ups.  We think a majority of these brands do not see a return on investment, time, or increase in brand awareness.  What it takes to make a successful pop-up takes 3 months of prep work, PR, a cohesive brand-mix, and local community engagement.  We saw that with the above mentioned “successful” pop-ups.
What do you think about the pop-up concept? I would love to hear on Facebook, Twitter, or email at Danielle@sohostrut.com!