By Stephen Brooks, The Pop Up Retail Expert
The foundation of all retail stems from pop-up strategies, bazaars, markets and souks! In modern-day retailing, the mall has become part of our shopping culture. In spite of the casualties of COVID-19, for many towns and cities, the mall is still at the heart of the local economy. Returning shoppers are tired of mediocre experiences, and with the effectiveness of online purchasing and deliveries direct to the door, the modern mall needs to look for new ways to encourage return visits, create exciting experiences and demonstrate their investment in local communities. Here are just a few reasons for taking a fresh look at your mall pop-up strategy.
- Local is the new global. As retail has reopened from the pandemic, there has been a shift in shopping, not just on main streets but also in malls across the world. Consumers are seeking a new experience. Landlords need to be open to retail startups, local businesses and minority-run businesses for pop-up opportunities. This will demonstrate to shoppers and the community the landlord’s commitment to local businesses, attract new customers, set the shopping center apart from the competition, increases sales and drive more occupancy inquiries not only from other pop-up activations but also from retailers in general. Many make the mistake of focusing purely on retailing, but the right pop-up strategy will also encourage local services businesses, community activities and brand-awareness campaigns, adding a new dynamic to the shopping center’s common areas.
- Become a center of retail excellence. Community malls are at the center of retail and commerce in many cities and towns. In some communities, they are the largest employers. When you encourage pop-up shops in your mall, you can have a positive impact on the local economy and create longer-term tenancies. When you share knowledge and invest time in an inline pop-up shop, you can increase the occupancy term of the pop-up, which in turn can lead to an even longer traditional lease. Busy malls attract expanding and new retailers, which leads to a better retail mix that increases footfall, which in turn helps raise the asset value. This investment of experience and support really does work and has been proven many times. It has even grown retail merchandising unit operators into retail kiosks and then to inline tenants. Online brand expansions to inline stores has accelerated incredibly in 2021. A new addition to the pop-up format is micro-activations: short-term occupancies, sometimes for just a few hours, that create buzz and excitement, merging the digital with the physical. They’re not just for the retail format but also for product launches, community events and music showcases. In Europe, someone used a micro-activation to propose to his partner. The PR and social media value of these activities should not be underestimated.
- It’s all about the experience. Online retailers spend millions of dollars to improve the online buying experience by making returns easy, enabling try-before-you-buy like Warby Parker did and introducing apps, rush deliveries and so on. So how does the mall compete with all of that? I could disappear down a rabbit hole right now and share hundreds of ideas, but I want to focus on just pop-ups for now. Amazon currently operates seven brick-and-mortar formats, including Amazon Go and Amazon Books. Many small online brands are following suit, and one of the biggest areas of pop-up growth is digitally native brands. When a mall opens a new pop-up shop for a digital brand, it adds a new dynamic to the experience, as online sellers integrate the online buying and the physical in-store experience, using technology like ship-to-store, which creates a return visit and social media engagement, which also can bring online consumers to the store.
Also on the rise is use of larger mall spaces for collective retailing: curation of several smaller online brands or smaller retail brands within a particular niche into a single-shop environment. This format allows for a rotation of products and brands, which keeps the consumer interested and engaged. The mall shopping experience should reflect seasons and trends. We’re all aware of businesses that only operate on a seasonal basis, but mall owners should put forth the same amount of energy in building relationships with brands that can operate at any time of the year. That will go the extra mile to grow the retailer’s sales, continually raise and evolve the shopping experience and add value.