Pop Ups – Taking the Shop to the Shoppers


Flexibility. It’s a concept that appeals to every retail owner. The ability to change promotions on the fly, to offer outside-the-box products and services, and experiment with the concept of a temporary storefront.

It’s also been a concept that’s tremendously risky to pull off. Retail, by its very nature, tends to be risk averse. It is extremely costly to manage a brick-and-mortar store, and If you have a concept that is working, you stick with it. Risk taking is often not economically viable.

That used to be the case, anyway. Today , there is a cost-efficient way for retailers to take risks and play with the concept of their store that does not interfere with the day-to-day operations of the outlet: the pop-up shop.

There was an op-ed recently on Forbes about how the Uberization of retail has arrived, and it’s pop-up stores. The big takeaway from the piece is the evolution of the pop up from marketing stunt to viable retail strategy.

The term “disruptor” gets thrown around a lot these days, probably too much, but Uber is truly disruptive technology that has forever changed how people “catch a cab.” Instead of hustling down city streets, waving like a lunatic at every passing yellow car, you now simply pull out your phone, open the app, pay (which is huge), and then kick back and watch as the car makes its way to your destination.

So far, in retail, the disrupter has been ecommerce. Brick and mortar can survive, but it needs a way to disrupt, as well.


Photo Credit: Awam of Pakistan

Over the past five years, ecommerce sales have doubled. While ecommerce accounts for only a small part of total retail sales (9.3 percent as of Q1 2018), that masks a scarier reality. There are certain segments of brick-and-mortar retail that have been hit especially hard by online sales. Music and video stores have practically disappeared, while book and toy stores are on the endangered list. Simply adding an online component to their traditional model of doing business has not been enough to save them for a myriad of reasons – in some cases it was too little too late, while others were trying to sell a physical product in a streaming world, etc.

Other sectors that are in trouble include sporting goods, hobby, game, electronics, appliance, and shoe stores. However, there are still some sectors that are proving resistant to online sales, including gas stations, grocery stores, beverage outlets, and car dealerships. Yet, there is no reason for even these sectors to get too comfortable.

The buying public is swiftly changing. Millennials, who just a few years ago were viewed as too riddled with debt to even buy paper napkins, are now the ones with all the buying power. Currently, the biggest category of online sales is books and music – two things that millennials don’t buy: they stream. That’s not to imply that online sales are going to drop, just that the categories are going to change – and those sectors that are currently “online resistant” won’t be for much longer.

Still have your doubts? As recently as Q1 2016, shoe stores hit their peak sales. Since that time sales have declined 3.5 percent while online sales have skyrocketed. Nobody saw this coming. Shoes were “online resistant” because you have to try on shoes. But the consumer changed. Now you order $1,000 worth of shoes from Zappos, try them on at home, and return $800 worth with free shipping. 


Photo Credit: Lift

What’s “online resistant” today won’t be tomorrow.

Which brings us back to retail on demand and the convenience of pop ups. Because the consumer is changing, brick-and-mortar retail has to change, too. And that change may include incorporating the pop up as a permanent part of your marketing and promotions strategy. 

Ecommerce has been doing this for a couple of years, now. Because, as ecommerce retailers have learned, there are areas where a physical shop is preferable over ecommerce: you can interact with customers face-to-face, build brand awareness, experiment, etc.

Traditional brick-and-mortar outlets can do this exact thing. Send your brand out into neighborhoods where you know the clientele will appreciate what you are offering. Don’t wait for them to come to you – you can no longer afford to do so.

Fortunately, by their very nature, a pop up can literally be located anywhere. Target once opened a floating holiday shop on the Hudson River. In the dead of winter, Kate Spade set up a large, igloo-shaped tent in New York City’s Bryant Park (and gave out free hot cocoa to help shoppers keep warm).

In fact, the interest generated by a pop up is due to an equal mix of theme and location.

There are five general settings for pop-up shops, and, fortunately, there are some low-cost solutions that you can use to add to your shop’s whimsy. One example is Event Architecture’s modular structures. These clean, modern mobile buildings are perfect for pop ups because they can be put up nearly anywhere – park, vacant lot, beach, under a bridge, etc. Uneven surfaces, like sand or snow, are not a problem. You are only limited by your imagination. And the contemporary design of the buildings will enhance the innovative feeling you are trying to convey with your shop.


These structures attract attention because they are unique, and they can be fully branded – inside and out. In addition, the front and back entrances feature clear Plexiglas panels and doors, so shoppers can easily check out what’s happening.

There are a variety of configurations that can be sized up and down to fit your exact requirements. In general, the structures (see list below) are modular, so they can be mixed and matched as needed.

  • XPO: The XPO single story model is available in two sizes of approximately 20’ and 33’ wide. Extend the depth in increments of 8’ as far as the eye can see, simply by adding on additional AirCells.

  • xDek: Expand space upward with the xDek. This sturdy steel and aluminum freestanding deck was designed so an XPO can fit below it. The xDek provides an upscale, open air space.

  • XPODH: Looking for an open feel? Need more height? Double it with the XPODH. Like the XPO, the depth of the XPODH can be extended, simply by attaching additional AirCells.

  • Yum Yum: The Yum Yum is an 8×8-foot pod that is designed for selling food and merchandise through a hinge-up serving window.

There are no limits to your options. Since flooring panels lock in place to help ensure the structures stand solid, there’s plenty of space under the floor to customize your electric grid. Which means you can include an optional climate control system or even go so far as setting up a fully-functional restaurant.

Regardless of the motivation, pop-up shops are delivering some of the most innovative experiences in retail. Become part of this conversation by creating an experience that customers will remember and want to share with their friends and relatives.

For creative ideas and to learn more about our modular structures, give Event Architecture a call at 972-323-9433.