What is 'Pop-Up Retail'

Pop-up retail is a retail store that is opened temporarily to take advantage of a trend or a seasonal product. Demand for products sold in pop-up retail is typically short-lived. Pop-up retail stores are found most often in the apparel and toy industries.


The term "pop-up" refers to the short-term duration of the retail stores, which "pop up" one day and are gone the next. Halloween costume stores are a common example, as are fireworks stores. Pop-up stores are also beneficial to retailers; in a down market, sellers can take advantage of lower rents and shorter leases if they are looking to generate sales but have a limited amount of inventory.

History of Pop-Up Retail

Temporary pop-up retail establishments find their origins in the Vienna December market in 1298 and in the European Christmas markets that followed. Seasonal farmer's markets, holiday fireworks stands, Halloween costume shops, consumer expos, and event-specific concessions are other examples of pop-up retailing.

The Ritual Expo was one of the first iterations of the modern pop-up retail store. Not yet referred to as pop-up retail, the 1997 Los Angeles event was created by Patrick Courrielche and was later called a one-day "ultimate hipster mall.” The pop-up retail concept quickly caught the eye of large brands, which saw the potential of creating short-term experiences to promote their products to target audiences. AT&T, Levi-Strauss and Motorola later worked with Courrielche to create pop-up shopping experiences across the country to market their products to young demographics.

In November 2002, discount retailer Target took over a 220-foot boat at Chelsea Piers for two-weeks on the Hudson River that coincided with Black Friday. Vacant, a Los Angeles, California based business specializing in pop-ups, arrived in New York in February 2003, and they worked with with Dr. Martens on developing a pop-up space at 43 Mercer Street. Song Airlines opened a pop-up shop in New York City in 2003. Comme des Garçons opened a pop-up shop in 2004 with the 'Guerrilla Shop' tag. It remained for a full year. Trendwatching.com claims to have coined the term "pop-up retail" in January 2004. In November 2013, Samsung opened a pop-up shop in New York City's Soho area that worked as a brand experience space. The temporary pop-up space was extended and eventually became a permanent retail space. In July, 2015, Fourth Element opened the world's first underwater pop-up shop at a depth of 19 feet at TEKCamp.2015 in Somerset, England. Other brands that have developed pop-up shops as part of their campaigns include Kate Spade, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Colette.

Pop-up retail began extending into other genres around 2009, when temporary restaurants started popping up in various locations. Interest in pop-up retail continued growing from there. 

Newbury Street in Boston has recently become a center for pop-up retail, hosting temporary storefronts for Martellus Bennett, Cotton, Kanye West and other local brands.

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