There are all kinds of pop-up shops that have, well, popped up over the last several years. Pop-up bars, pop-up candy shops, pop-up hairdressers, pop-up sleeping pods, pop-up museums – since 2015, one can basically take any retail-connected noun, pair it with the word “pop-up” and have a better than 50/50 chance of finding a match somewhere in an American city.
And when one steps into a temporary retail space, the odds are good that it was created by CS Hudson, a firm that specializes in experiential pop-ups and shop-in-shop installations. The firm was founded, according to Co-founder and CEO Joe Scaretta, to address retail’s biggest issue as the 2010s take their final bow and pass into the 2020s.
Retail is changing because shoppers’ expectations are different than they were a decade ago. Back then, omnichannel commerce wasn’t a thing, eCommerce was still in its developmental phase and retail was still mostly synonymous with brick-and-mortar retail.
But what worked 10 or 20 years ago, Scaretta said, just won’t work now.
“Solely meeting consumers with a traditional brick-and-mortar experience is a surefire way to become a victim of the retail apocalypse, and there are certainly enough tragic examples on record – from Toys R Us to Blockbuster Video – to prove that point.”
For customers looking to add an item to their cart and go, eCommerce has advanced in countless ways to make that process easier, faster and more secure than ever. When customers actually take the time to experience retail in-person, they want an actual experience – a way to interact with the product that goes beyond merely seeing it in person. Beyond just an attractive display case and well-organized shelves, consumers expect novelty, personalization and digital convenience. As Scaretta noted, pop-ups have become a uniquely time- and cost-effective means of building those experiences.
“While visitors to the freshly completed locations – which are often boldly designed to fit with seasonal or specific brand themes – interact with products, demos and highly trained employees, retailers and manufacturers are simultaneously collecting data and personal information, and capturing consumer habits and feedback to create even more impactful online and offline experiences in the future,” he said.
And while pop-ups are an incredibly useful tool for retailers – particularly those looking for better ways to navigate the transition to digital – they can also be a useful tool for something else, especially during the holiday season. According to CS Hudson, they can also be a vehicle to help merchants not only do well during the seasons of accelerated spending, but also to do good.
CS Hudsons’ Pop-Ups for Good is in its second year. By the company’s description, it is an effort, undertaken with the support of its vendors and partners, to launch short-term retail pop-ups to benefit various philanthropic causes. This year, the focus is on bringing Christmas to homeless children via their “Winter Wonderland” pop-up. The New York-based pop-up will be busing children from HELP Suffolk, a housing facility for homeless children in Long Island. At the Winter Wonderland event, the kids will get an opportunity to grab toys free of charge and enjoy a series of festive, interactive experiences.
“The program allows us to use contemporary retail technology and practices to drive customer experience and awareness for each nonprofit we select,” noted Scaretta. “Pop-up shops have gained quite a bit of momentum this year, and we’re thrilled to be able to use this concept to raise awareness for nonprofits and give back to the community in an impactful way. The entire team is looking forward to seeing the smiles and joy as the kids enter our Winter Wonderland.”
And while Pop-Ups for Good is out and about in a very public way now, he said, it is actually a year-round program. Next year, apart from its holiday programs, CS Hudson plans to host up to four additional pop-ups. The first one, which will be called “Getting Heroes Hired” and is scheduled for February, will be a veteran-focused pop-up.
Will pop-ups be enough to save the world of physical retail? The jury is still out on that one, and probably will be well into the year 2020. But can pop-ups done right also do good? It seems that for about 100 homeless children who might not otherwise get any new toys this year, it seems a pop-up can actually do a whole lot of good.