Pop-Up Culture

29 10 2010

Just when you think the winter of our economic discontent can’t get any worse, along comes news of a glimmer of hope. Kind of like the first daffodil of spring. The snowdrift melting to reveal grass. Walking outside without a jacket.

And while it may not mean long-term jobs for all the victims of the current recession, at least there’s a growing number of short-term gigs popping up. Chalk it all up to the growing number of pop-up stores sprouting like those springtime daffodils.

Pop-up stores are retail outlets filling empty retail and commercial space. Thank to the recession, there’s a lot of boarded up storefronts. Landlords are thrilled to have tenants if even only for a couple of months, while retail chains and other marketing entities are all too happy to have inexpensive opportunities to put their brand in front of the people.

Pop-up stores are nothing new. Anyone who has lived long enough to shop the mall around Christmas has seen the seasonal kiosks as well as boomerang tenants such as Hickory Farms return each November. But while most pop-up stores still stick to the winter formula, there is evidence this time around the pop-ups are popping at all times of the year.

Consider the advantages: They allow retail chains to test out new locations with little risk, as well as double up on retail space whenever the need arises. Chains like Target and Toys ‘R Us can spread themselves around town without having to commit to the real estate footprint of a new stand-alone store. And more esoteric marketing efforts (like those surrounding the release and merchandising of a movie) can position themselves visibly and within proximity of a theater.

Industry reports tell tales of a growing number of retailers filling vacancies with pop-ups the likes of which have not been seen before. Whereas pop-ups have traditionally been limited to seasonal vendors, the format is being used by retail mainstays. And while these mainstays may not yet feel quite ready to invest in a slew of new buildings, at least they are demonstrating some economic confidence.

And that confidence has to make all of us feel a little bit better about things. That there is indeed a spring after the winter. Grass beneath that snow. A blossom at the end of that sprout.

That alone is worth writing home about. Let us hope that the economic sun beam,s down brightly on our economy in ever increasing hours, and that summer is not far behind.

Dr “Vernal Equinox” Gerlich


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