Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Pop-Up Store Model

I like pop-up stores. They feel more like event marketing than retailing. The concept has been around for a few years.

  • Pop-up store articles at trendwatching.com
  • Pop-up store articles at Cool Hunting

  • Lately I've seen a new round of stories. For example:

  • "Pop-Up Stores Help Brands Build Buzz," Advertising Age, 8/31/09.
  • "Pop-Up Stores Help Brands Pop," TheStreet.com, 8/26/09.
  • "London Artists Turn Empty Commercial Space Into Galleries," New York Times, 9/1/09.
  • "Summer's Top Pop-Up Shops," Forbes, 6/5/09
  • "High-end retailers 'pop up' then go bye," Marketplace, 5/27/09


  • So on that note, I'll suggest that you think of your merchandise table as a mini-pop-up store.

    The concept isn't totally transferrable, I know. I've sold merchandise at shows. Often you have very little room at the venue. And even if you do, you may have very little room in your car or van to transport merchandise and displays. And even if you can deal with those issues, you may have to hand over your merchandise sales to someone at the venue, therefore giving you little or no control over the display.

    Still, I have experimented. For one artist I wanted to move into a full line of clothing. She played a lot of outdoor festivals, so I went looking for a clothing rack that was collapsible and was also sturdy enough to stand up to wind. I did find such a device at an online store that sells them to salesmen who are always on the road and need to set up sample displays. But the artist quit using it after a few months because it was heavy.

    Even if most merch displays are bare bones out of necessity, I'll toss out some examples to get people thinking about creative retailing in small spaces. Here are three music related pop-ups:
  • ... downtown’s Regent Theatre is currently being turned into a pop-up record store named Third Man Records, after White’s Nashville-based record label and permanent store there. According to White's manager, Matt Pollack, the store will house various sorts of Third Man Records merch, included limited-edition goods. "It's an opportunity to bring his label and music to the masses," Pollack said. "Jack White's pop-up record store: Get in line," Brand X | Los Angeles Times, 8/25/09.
  • ... the pop up shop's upscale interior outfitted with mohair sofas, suede walls, custom zebra wood cabinetry, a 46-inch flat screen TV, stereo system and a custom gaming zone, is designed to transport the customer into the Jay-Z and high-end Rocawear lifestyle. As part of a campaign to present the Rocawear lifestyle in a slinky setting and to upswing the profile of Jay-Z's brand, the mobile lounge showcases the new premium line of apparel for Rocawear. "Rocawear Mobile RocPopShop," Cool Hunting, 4/09.
  • The store gives customers a chance to see and feel limited-edition boxed sets, silkscreen posters, fine art photographs, and other merchandise in person rather than rely on the thumbnail images and sound samples that are the currency of the digital domain. "Rhino Pop-Up Store Returns to Retail Roots," Promo, 12/27/07.
  • There are quite a few companies that make large displays for booths, smaller displays for tabletops, and very portable displays for traveling salespeople. In most cases what they sell is going to be too bulky and too expensive for musicians. But perhaps looking at their catalogues will give you some ideas. Here are a few places to check out. It's by no means a comprehensive list.

  • Everything Displays
  • ExpoDepot.com
  • Displays2go

  • It's best to experiment before investing too much money into merchandise displays. I've seen a lot of attempts at creativity abandoned after they've been hauled around a bit. Focus on something that is relatively lightweight, can be folded or broken down, and is very sturdy. Also, if you have to prioritize, efficiency is better than looks. It's more important to have a system that keeps your merchandise organized and easy to grab in a hurry and in poor light than one where all your storage space is devoted to a fancy display.

    If you have already created a functional and creative music merch set-up and you want to share it, post a link to a photo in the comments section.

    Suzanne Lainson
    @slainson on Twitter

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