July 22, 2020 / Retail Insight

Why the future of retail will see more pop up shops emerge in our post covid climate

At the start of July, Harvard Business Review wrote: ‘The Pandemic Is Rewriting the Rules of Retail.’ It is true that stores reopened last month across Europe and thus the future of retail has emerged into a new world. Our post-pandemic lives have propelled us into a new urban landscape and retail strategies have had to evolve in order to adapt.

As stores began to reopen last month, Freddie Sheridan, Global Director at Sheridan&Co ‘we are in a climate where brands are having to be careful with money. Brands don’t want to invest a huge amount of money in a climate that feels unknown but pop up shops give you a really good cost-effective initiative to promote a brand and put a good foot forward for many of the things that consumers are looking for and what they have been missing from physical interaction with stores during the lockdown period. Pop-up shops are a great platform for any brand to consider in a relatively short term period’.

(Pop-ups are, of course, not limited to stand-alone spaces and department stores could invite brands into their halls to create the perfect retail theatre.)

Melissa Gonzalez, CEO of the Lionesque Group echoed this sentiment in an article for Glossy, stating that ‘more brands that are struggling to come up with a solid plan for retail are using pop up shops as a data-gathering tool for testing and iterating on ideas like kerbside pickup and modified fitting rooms before committing to them’.

The Pandemic Is Rewriting the Rules of Retail.

Harvard Business Review

With the fear surrounding a second wave of the virus and another lockdown, retailers are cautious to commit to projects with longer time scales and are seeking more short term formats. Thus, the future of retail will be increasingly reliant on the good old pop-up that is proving once again to be an excellent platform for brands to engage with consumers due to their temporary format.

‘The first key goal of a pop-up is not always to shift a load of product,’ comments Freddie Sheridan, ‘they are about customer engagement, the experience and introducing people to things they didn’t know about a brand such as new products they are not already familiar with.’

Pop-ups are about brand engagement, the experience and introducing people to things they didn’t know about.

Freddie Sheridan

Whilst reminiscing on the advent of Sheridan&Co’s first pop-up experience in 2008 following the recession, Michael Sheridan, Sheridan&Co’s Chairman and Founder, decided to keep the company’s London office by adding a shop floor for brands to promote and sell their products.  At that moment, social media was still in its infancy in terms of the opportunity available to brands. However, now the difference is that brands have a tremendous opportunity to capitalise on their digital potential when it comes to pop-ups too. Michael Sheridan comments ‘we are living in a period of a huge redefining of what a pop-up experience might look like. This is incredibly exciting for brands as we enter a new world, we create a new rulebook for the future of retail.’

As brands and retailers begin to navigate the new complexities of delivering retail experiences, pop up shops will become increasingly opportune for brands looking to engage with consumers and offer a great baseline platform for retailers to trade again in the short term.

In order to really excel, and recreate this new world of retail post-coronavirus, we break down how brands can embrace this pop-up opportunity by offering local connection, focusing on the in-person experience for consumers, bookable experiences, and finally, embrace the uniqueness of being in a physical space.

This is incredibly exciting for brands as we enter a new world, we create a new rulebook for the future of retail.

Michael Sheridan

Key ideas for the future of retail and pop up shops

  • Rise of bookable moments & brand spaces
  • How the future of retail can engage in a new urban landscape by tapping into a localised opportunity (pop up shops were originally more just for connection and marketing hype, but now we can create spaces with more meaning)
  • Ensuring hygiene and safety 
  • Facilitating a better in-person experience

Bookable brand spaces

Across all industry sectors, having bookable brand spaces encourages consumers to feel at ease when shopping with a brand. At the same time, it enables retailers to control store traffic. Additionally, bookable brand spaces and appointments enable retailers to trade on the USP of a physical store. What’s more, this strategy provides brands with an opportunity to foster more meaningful relationships with their consumers and offer bespoke solutions to customers who have booked appointments.  In the first week of Selfridge’s reopening, customers were invited to book in-store appointments an hour before opening (10 am-11 am) and after the usual closing time for booking beauty and fashion consultation slots (7pm-8 pm).

As we settle into retail’s new normal, we expect that bookable brand spaces will continue to be a tactic adopted by retailers globally and a strategy embraced for curating pop up shops. An example of this includes a collaboration between Gucci and Sephora in LA earlier this year to launch a new mascara in an experiential pop-up called Gucci beauty Network Studios. Whilst admission was free, consumers had to RVSP to gain entry.

We have seen a similar strategy with Lego in 2019 where the brand invited parents to book in advance for a retail experience that showcased the Christmas wishlist products for that year. In a playful and escapist kids-only zone, Lego offered an experience that combined entertainment and education using lego products where children partnered with three of their friends to play against rival teams. The clever and crucial part is that by booking in advance, brands are able to follow up with offers and communication suited to the customer’s store experience after they leave. Lego embraced this strategy and the attendance of the pop-up was exceeded by 20%.

In order to promote creative diversity, Virgil Abloh worked alongside Nike Lab to deliver a bookable pop-up brand experience in Chicago in 2019. The pop-up experience involved a workshop space where 10 young Chicagoans could gain mentoring, as well as shop for rare products and attend free, bookable events.

Community driven spaces and tapping into the locality opportunity

During coronavirus, the power of the community was strongly felt. Initiatives that honour localism and community have been appreciated. Small independents and local stores became the cornerstones of our society. We found comfort in being recognised by staff and people in our communities. Delivering retail strategies that connect with the immediate community will be key to reopening retail. It has been our communities that carried us through hard times, and consumers will want to feel that energy as they shop again in non-essential retail.  

Corner shops are intrinsic to British national identity and illustrate pockets of community throughout villages and towns across the nation. Playing to their British heritage and embracing the power of community, Selfridge’s launched an experimental Corner Shop pop-up concept in 2017. As we rebuild our society, retail will play a key part in creating a new urban landscape where the community is felt and facilitated. Brands have an opportunity to engage in this localised opportunity to build a deeper connection with communities. The power of pop-ups is that they can provide timely and seasonal moments in store for brands to facilitate this.

Ensuring hygiene and safety

Whilst non-essential retail stores have reopened, we can still feel the echoes of lockdown behind us. Consumers are cautious to shop, providing that their health and safety is taken into consideration. Whilst we have already touched upon bookable brand spaces, luxury Italian brand Sergio Rossi launched a pop up in May 2020 called Milanese #WonderMachine that is set to run for the next twelve months. Upon entry, consumers pass an infrared ceiling sensor so their body temperature can be checked upon entry unobtrusively. The results are projected back to them discreetly via a floor laser. The same laser is used throughout the space to illustrate social distancing. In order to gain entry, consumers must book via email, WhatsApp or telephone ahead of attending. Upon launch, the first five days were almost fully booked out.

Facilitating a better in-person experience

In previous blogs, we have touched upon how a retail experience’s USP over shopping online is due to the physical experience a consumer receives when they visit a store. With some consumers still apprehensive to return to stores, retailers must work hard to provide an unprecedented in-person customer experience in order to compete with the world of online shopping. Pop up shops, though temporary in nature, can cater to this by delivering one-to-one consultations and added VIP moments for consumers when they arrive at the store. This attention to detail surrounding the customer service in-store will go a long way in terms of building brand and consumer relationships. 

As we embark upon our journey of this new era for the future of retail, pop-up strategies will remain to be powerful opportunities for brands to connect with consumers. If you would like advice on how Sheridan&Co can help you develop a pop-up strategy so you can engage with your brand community, contact us at team@sheridanandco.com