Innovation-Seeking Big Brands Pop Up In Small Spaces

Pop-Up Shops

Brands might want a space to test new concepts with shoppers in brick-and-mortar retail environments, but they don’t always want the time and expense involved in building out a permanent store. To that end, retailers like Macy’s are turning to pop-up shops to showcase brands — and giving them a level of flexibility not often found with traditional stores.

Rather than featuring products on shelves throughout its large department stores, Macy’s is planning to open a 1,000-square-foot Los Angeles area space this fall dedicated to brands that would like to display items in a pop-up format. By comparison, its mainline spaces average 181,100 square feet in size.

The pop-up will be further divided up to vendors that will pay Macy’s for a space to have its brick-and-mortar presence. These spaces start at around 100 square feet and can be rented for one, two or three months. Vendors gain another benefit by being located in a pop-up space, in addition to the obvious exposure: They will keep all the revenue they generate.

The Los Angeles-based Commercial Observer reported that the concept will be located in the renovated Westfield Century City Mall. It also comes with a bit of staffing twist, as Macy’s own team members will service the brands per a February The Market@Macys report.

While the pop-ups will benefit brands with flexibility and staffing, they also benefit Macy’s. The retailer can gain insights into customer preferences through the arrangement, as well as the promise of new products that may drive customers to visit its brick-and-mortar stores.

“Overwhelmingly, what we think makes this so attractive for Macy’s and our customers is it continues to drive customers to stores by giving a constant break of discovery,” Marc Mastronardi, the company’s executive vice president of new business development and innovation, told CNBC in a February story. “We have not [before] had a model in which we have provided [Macy’s retail service] to a really diverse set of categories coming into our space.”

Macy’s is hardly the only company seeking to offer pop-up space to brands. Mall operator Simon Malls, which boasts more than 300 shopping centers nationwide, launched a scalable space for brands in December called The Edit. Its goal is to fix the old retail burdens mall spaces often bear — inflexibility and expense — while delivering their benefits of customer foot traffic.

Beauty Pop-Up Shops

Brands are also rolling out their own pop-up shops. Cosmetic firm Glossier opened a new retail store on Chicago’s West Loop on Aug. 23 that is scheduled for operation through October. The brand chose the city because “it ranks in Glossier’s top five ‘engaged’ cities,” according to The Chicago Reader.

The buzz-worthy brand has added many design elements to create its space in an old firehouse, highlighting Glossier products in large tilted frames that give it a feel of an “exaggerated, distorted architectural museum,” noted Glossier senior experiential designer Kendall Latham. The idea was that “when [the brand] came to Chicago, we understood that art and architecture [were] something we wanted to celebrate and emphasize.”

The Chicago store is not Glossier’s first run at pop-up shops. Its Dallas pop-up was described by one fashion blogger as a transformative experience, the ideal cosmetics shopping trip for the Instagram age and the home of “the perfectly curated aesthetic.” Glossier is a uniquely mobile-age success story because of the content on which it collaborates with users and fans to create and disseminate. That’s visible in its ultra-minimalist, but distinct and memorable packaging, too, as well as its “whimsical” product naming and its structures’ designs.

“The space is, in the fashion of today’s brand-conscious eCommerce companies, not only a store but an ‘offline experience,’” Architectural Digest said in its review of the NYC flagship. “This one, though, is truly experiential. Lush pink carpets with pops of magenta furniture and interactive mirror displays make it feel like something of a hybrid of a modern boudoir and a high-fashion funhouse.”

Will customers be driven to Glossier’s new pop-up shop in Chicago and Macy’s space in the Los Angeles area? Stay tuned.