The Why Behind the Buy

Understanding consumerism and why we buy

Pop-Up Retail - Why it Works

Pop-up retail: sometimes to sell, sometimes as an interactive billboard

Last week Trattoria 1910 opened in a bleak little alley a couple of blocks away from my university. The restaurant has been sold out every day since and yet it's closing in two weeks. Stranger yet? All the food is free. Turns out it's part of a publicity campaign to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Gallo Salame.

In New York and Los Angeles musicians promote their tours and albums by opening pop-up shops that are less about selling tour merchandise and more about generating buzz.

Toys ‘R' Us opened 91 temporary stores over the holidays - largely filling vacant retail space. In many cities you couldn't think "toys" without mentally adding "R Us."

The recession created empty retail space. Now landlords, traditionally tough cookies, are more willing to negotiate shorter leases.

Businesses are making creative use of this space with pop-up storefronts - sometimes to sell things and sometimes as a sort of interactive billboard.

Whatever the marketer's strategy - consumers love them. Pop-ups seem intimate and local at a time when consumers are looking for ways to feel more connected. And of course, "new" is always a little more exciting.

While the recession may have created available space and more accommodating landlords, it's the Internet that's given pop-ups their punch. Once upon a time the retail mantra was, "location, location, location." Businesses relied on location to create loyalty and reputation - especially restaurants.

Today the Internet has changed the meaning of "location," allowing retailers to create a virtual identity that's as real and marketable as one established by a physical location. In fact, some of the most popular lunch restaurants and cupcake bakeries in the country right now are on wheels. Devotees check Twitter for the specials (and location) of the day.

In addition to great eats, consumers enjoy feeling in-the-know and a little closer.
Every few weeks in Oakland, California local chefs (most of whom are without a restaurant right now) sell cook-at-home versions of their favorite dishes in what they're calling The Pop-Up General Store. The location varies, but they always sell-out in a few hours.

 

Kit Yarrow is a professor of psychology and marketing at Golden Gate University in San Francisco.

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