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Popping Up in Retail

Example of a pop-up shop - photo by the New York Times

Pop-up shops and trunk shows are disrupting the status-quo of the retail world. Ecommerce and permanent stores aren’t just the two big norms now, with more small retailers staking their claim in the retail world with pop-up shops and larger retailers taking their special collections on the road with trunk shows. These “stores” help retailers and have implications for their permanent neighbors as well. We’re breaking down the benefits of having a pop-up shop or trunk show and what you should do if one is coming to a city near you.

What are pop-up shops and trunk shows?

Pop-up shops do just that—pop up. Retailers will place a new collection, a sampling of products, or whatever they see fit in a pop-up shop, usually with little announcement beforehand. They hit some of the biggest fashion cities like New York and LA, set-up shop in empty retail spaces or galleries, draw crowds in, and leave just as fast as they came—on to the next city.

Trunk shows have taken on a new meaning from the days of giving your employees early access to your newest collections. They’re now used as an exclusive way for select customers to get a preview of a collection, meet with the designer, or get fitted for their own custom piece from the collection. They differ from pop-up shops in that they’re usually advertised and only have a few time slots for various customers. Trunk shows are becoming especially popular for bridal collections.



One of the top principles of making something “stick” is making it scarce, and that’s exactly the principle retailers are applying to these situations. Simply put, they’re giving their customers exclusive access and only a short time to that access. Because of this, these shops and shows gain a quick customer base and an easy way to sell out of items fast. As a customer, if you don’t know when it’s coming or for how long, you’ll need to make decisions faster. Likewise, when you’re doing a trunk show, you’re giving consumers the power to meet with the designers themselves or own a one of a kind piece. It’s much harder to turn around and put something back when it’s just you and the stylist working to find the perfect fit for you.

Recognition for your other stores

Not only is the scarcity factor playing to your advantage, so is your brand’s name. Since only a limited number of people were able to take advantage of your sale, there will be many more people wondering where they can get what was available to the select few. This will lead people to search online and either help enhance your ecommerce stores or your brick and mortar stores. Many retailers who don’t have a physical location but are planning on it (or considering it) also use this method to gauge interest for different markets to see where their first store should go. It’s a great way to get hands-on market research without having to invest in a physical store.

What to do when something pops up near you

So you’ve got your strategy in place for the retailers already surrounding you, but how will you react to these sometimes surprise visits by pop-up shops and trunk shows? These are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Note in your system that an event is occurring. This will help you when you’re looking back on your data so you can tell why (or if) there is a change in your numbers.
  • Stay up to date on the events happening near you and take notice of the vacant spots near your shop. The best way to come up with a solution is to recognize when the problem may be occurring. If you’re in a building, see if you have it in your lease contract that you must be notified of events so that you can come up with a strategy before it happens.
  • Don’t try to outdo, but be true to your business. If the trunk show or pop-up shop is bringing in clientele that is similar to yours, think of how you can also attract them to your offerings. You want to be authentic though, so that they have a consistent user experience.

The retail landscape changes daily, whether you’re excited about trying one of these shops for your retail business or are in a city where they pop up around you often, it’s best to be aware of what’s going on and how it will affect your business.

For more retail strategies, talk to the retail experts at ArcherPoint.