BY KAREN HAYWOOD QUEEN
POP;UP SHOPS are here today, gone tomorrow—
or at least by next month. For a new business or
brand, a pop-up shop offers the opportunity for a
bricks-and-mortar presence without a long-term
lease. Often these shops, which locate in available
vacant retail space, pop up around the holidays.
The trend has spread worldwide, with walkable
cities such as New York among the hot locations.
But these shops are popping up in smaller cities too.
Proper preparation and planning are key for a successful pop-up.
“We keep it fresh and exciting—then we close
and go away,” says Jo Louise Harding of Pop-Shop
by Jo Louise in Newport News, Virginia, which sells
art on consignment from more than 100 artists.
Pop-up shops can help emerging brands save
money because owners don’t have to sign a long-
term lease. But owners still need resources. “I’ve
seen pop-ups be successful for food, beverages, even
mattresses,” says Melissa Gonzalez, chief pop-up
architect at The Lion’esque Group in New York. “But
you have to have the right budget and resources.”
It’s critical to do your homework and make sure
you can squeeze the most benefit from your pop-up.
Good items to sell are things customers can use
right away, says Nora Gardner, founder of Nora
Gardner in New York City, which sells business
dresses for professional women from a pop-up as
well as a permanent showroom. Think: food,
clothes, art, jewelry, flowers, cosmetics, seasonal
items such as Halloween or Christmas decorations
and seasonal services such as tax preparation.
Products that don’t work as well include anything that has to be shipped. Pop-up shops are all
about immediate gratification.
Location is critical
The first key to success is that old real estate
adage: location, location, location. Although retail
vacancies are down, space is still available, according
to CBRE, a commercial real estate company. To find
vacant space, try sites such as Storefront (thestore
front.com) or thisopenspace (
which help business owners find available retail
space in their area. For landlords, a pop-up means
they can collect at least some rent (see sidebar).
But even if the space looks beautiful and the rent
is affordable, don’t sign up if the site isn’t right. Hold
off until you find the perfect spot, Gardner says.
“One of my first pop-ups was on the Lower East
Side, and it was clearly the wrong place,” says
Gardner. “My latest pop-ups have been in the heart
of the financial district of midtown Manhattan. I’m
right across the street from my customers. They can
come over on their lunch break or after work. My
customer needs these clothes and doesn’t have time
to shop. Our goal is to make their lives much easier.
Here today …
Pop-up shops thrive by coming and going
FOR A LANDLORD, a pop-up
shop transforms empty space
into a rent-generating shop
that can attract future permanent tenants.
When Jo Louise Harding
decided to jump on the trend
and open a pop-up shop selling consignment art in
Newport News, Virginia,
that’s how she approached a
property owner friend about
a retail property that had
gone unrented for more than
two years. “I told him, ‘I know
you’ve been getting zero
money for years. How about
a little money?’ ” He was
happy to oblige.
Harding operated the
pop-up for a few weeks a
year. Three years after she
opened, a frequent shopper
who sold similar goods—arti-
san jewelry and pottery—
signed a permanent lease
with the landlord for the site.
Harding and her team
moved to another shopping
center. Owners of surrounding
stores said sales went up
when the pop-up was open.
Once again, the bustling shop
attracted the attention of a per-
manent tenant. An estate jew-
elry store signed a permanent
lease, and Harding moved her
pop-up three doors down in
the same shopping center.
Real estate brokers have
already caught on to the ben-
efits of pop-up shops, says
Melissa Gonzalez, chief pop-
up architect at The Lion’esque
Group in New York. Landlords
“Owners need to prove to
landlords that it’s a benefit,”
Gonzalez says. “It’s easier to
rent a full, beautiful space as
opposed to vacant space.”
CONTINUED ON PAGE 34