As COVID’s initial lockdowns shuttered retail storefronts and the “new normal“ of social distancing drove consumers en masse to shop online via click, the question arose among luxury retailers: Would people ever feel comfortable coming back into their high-experience flagships to browse, linger and buy? And if so, how would consumer expectations have changed? What would post-pandemic retail shopping look like?
It turns out, the answer is smaller, faster and more specialized – in other words: pop-ups. Typically used by luxury brands as a channel for experimentation with new products, the global excess of retail store vacancies has suddenly made pop-ups a more viable option. And landlords, once highly resistant to shorter leases of smaller formats, are happy to accommodate.
As Garrick Brown, VP of retail intelligence at Cushman & Wakefield explains, some forecasts predict up to 20% of US retail space will soon be vacant. “That’s almost 2 billion square feet of space,” he explains. “Landlords that used to be reluctant [to offer shorter and more flexible leases] will be lining up and begging retailers to test-run [temporary pop-up] spaces.”
These low budget, quick-install spaces – many of which occupy three- to six-month leases – can be high impact for brands. As mini brand beacons, they create a visible presence that drives awareness and, importantly, they’re able to bring the retail experience to customers where they are, not the other way around.
As reported in Vogue Business, Dior recently launched a series of pop-ups outside of metropolitan centers, following their customers to their vacation homes in Mediterranean coastal villages. (Nice, right?) As their spokesperson puts it, “Pop-ups complete our retail strategy. We aim to go where the client goes.”
As consumer brands of all types look ahead with their selling strategies, it’s clear that the future of retail is both online and in store. As a retail intelligence expert recently says, “Online is becoming a key distribution channel, but physical retail is still where brands create that connection with the customer.”
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