Are Pop-Ups the Future of Retail?
Yes, according to a Houston-based tech startup that connects brands with temporary retail space.
By Julia Davila
POP-UP SHOPS ARE REVOLUTIONIZING the retail industry, causing traditional brick-and-mortars to reevaluate their strategies. We’ve seen pop-ups take over larger cities (including Houston) with temporary retail spaces selling anything from clothing to beauty products and home décor to technology.
Houston-based technology startup PopUp Shops launched last Wednesday at Downtown Houston’s GreenStreet with a summit called The Retail Revolution. Local industry leaders joined to talk about retail trends, competition between brick and mortars and e-commerce, and how to stay relevant. Panelists included Travis Weaver, founder of Manready Mercantile; Chef Justin Turner, founder of Bernie’s Burger Bus; Jen Martinsen, West U.S. regional director of Microsoft Retail Stores; and Jalal Bsaiso, general manager of b8ta. Midway CEO Jonathan Brisden and Gregory Parsons of General Growth Properties rounded out the discussion with a commercial real estate point of view.
“Properties will work with brands to create the pop-up experience because it is vital to ensure that the properties are innovative,” Brinsden said. “The future of retail, we can all agree, is now driven by the experience and by working together with brands. We can provide that to our customers.”
When the Super Bowl came to Houston last year, Sun & Ski Sports founder Barry Goldware started thinking about the city’s lack of a marketplace to connect brands and spaces. He called on his former colleague, Scott Blair—who took Sun & Ski Sports from zero to $5 million in online sales—now of Netera Group, to develop a platform. Another partner, Rob Dobson of Red Pup Media, assisted with backend development, and Houston PR maven Megan Silianoff, founder of Mad Meg Creative, helped with the national marketing strategy.
“There are so many pop-up shop concepts; a pop-up shop can be an author … doing a book signing, it could be a clothing store, it could be an artisan, it could be like Sun & Ski,” Goldware said. “Part of [the point] is to test the market and locations. Pop-ups are happening within stores. You invite another retail that targets your same demographic and you have a pop-up for them. You put the word out to your database and they put the word out to their database, and the synergy [takes place].”
Goldware, who has over 40 years of retail experience, believes pop-ups are “a vernacular for a very creative way to compete in this crazy retail world today,” he said.
“I know that pop-ups are as much about marketing as they are leasing,” he added, noting strip malls and lifestyle centers are taking initiative to host pop-ups. “We’re shopping in a world where anchor stores are sinking and looking to pop-ups to make waves and keep malls afloat. Pop-up shops are what will entice shoppers to get off Amazon and head to experience a brand in-person while it’s in town, whether it’s a pop-up restaurant, traveling Instagram museum, or new-agey yoga class.”
Founded in 2017, PopUp Shops Houston is described as the “Match.com” of its field, connecting spaces and brands through a user-friendly messaging platform. Users are able to share their brand online or list their space, and the platform will provide recommendations based on their criteria. Currently available exclusively in Houston, the platform plans to expand to more than 40 major cities–including Dallas, San Antonio, and Chicago–within the next 18 months.
“Our plans are to get Houston up and running, and spread nationwide,” Silianoff said. “Just like Craigslist has its local page but a national presence, that will be the exact same for us.”