High-end retailers 'pop up' then go bye

A shop staffer walks out of an outlet of the French fashion brand Hermes in Shanghai, China.

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Kai Ryssdal: Reports from the world of retail haven't been all that great since the recession took hold. Sales are tanking. Stores are closing. Even entire chains like Circuit City and Mervyns have gone under. One might imagine then that this would be a less than ideal time to open a new business. But creative marketing can work wonders. Pop-up stores are the latest example. One here, one there, and then they're gone after just a couple of months. Target's probably the best known retailer that's used them. But now luxury goods want some of the action. Sally Herships reports on retail's new disappearing act.


SALLY HERSHIPS: I'm standing in front of New York City's bus terminal with marketing consultant Rob Spira. There's loads of traffic, construction noise, fast food joints and a liquor store nearby.

ROB SPIRA: The port authority is not a particularly beautiful space.

It may not be stylish, but it's the site of Spira's new store called Save Fashion. Stocked with cashmere sweaters and $400 dresses, it opened a few weeks go -- and it'll be gone by next month. It's a pop-up. Shira Carmi is Spira's partner. She says pop-ups have a particular draw for shoppers.

SHIRA CARMI: This is a special event. It's one time only, you have to go out of your way to get here. It's very special. It's temporary.

You may have seem pop-ups before at Halloween and Christmas for costumes and decorations. Or as showcases for guest designers at discounters like Target. But now the creme de la creme of retail is getting into the game. Miles Socha is the European editor of Women's Wear Daily.

MILES SOCHA: Chanel has done a pop-up store at Dover Street market in London. Yves Saint Laurent recently did one in an art gallery on the lower east side.

And last week Hermes opened a temporary boutique in New York's tony East Hamptons. Socha says pop-up stores help landlords and retailers. Owners can get tenants into empty spaces, even if it's only for a few months. Retailers get short leases, and a chance to try out a new neighborhood without a big investment.

SOCHA: So it's also a way for these brands to put themselves in a different environment and imbue themselves with downtown cool and edginess and tap into new slice of customers.

The novelty of pop-ups lets high-end retailers do things they wouldn't do in typical stores. Like offer big discounts. Again Shira Carmi.

CARMI: It's not like you walk into a store where you used to buy a $1000 handbags and now all the sudden it's $500. And that allows the designers to sell it at a discount without tarnishing their brand.

Pop-up stores are typically more bare bones then permanent locations. So they can be flexible in a tough economy. Rob Spira says Save Fashion recently decided to extend its stay at Port Authority an extra two weeks.

SPIRA: We've had press here, we've had fashionistas, we've had fancy designers. Not fancy designers. And they're all hanging out in the Port Authority and having a great experience.

But Women's Wear Daily Editor Miles Socha says as long as the economy stays sluggish, we're likely to see more pop-ups from all sorts of brands.

In New York, I'm Sally Herships for Marketplace.

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