Pop-up stores keep popping up

A general view of atmosphere inside the debut of the Liberty of London for Target Shopping Experience at The Liberty of London for Target Pop Up store in New York City.

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Bob Moon: Talk about your "niche marketing." You may have noticed that certain stores can be here today, and gone tomorrow. "Pop-up" stores, as retailers call them, aren't just for Halloween costumes or Christmas decor. In this season of uncertain sales figures, all sorts of companies have zoomed in on temporary stores, hoping to connect with customers in just the right place at just the right moment. Don't blink or you might miss them, but as Janet Babin reports, the pop-up concept may be here to stay.


Janet Babin: Target pioneered the pop-up store as a marketing event, but it's become a marketing strategy. This spring, its Liberty of London collection debuted at a temporary space in New York.

Joshua Thomas: We had thousands of thousands of fresh cut flowers so it was very fragrant.

That's Target spokesman Joshua Thomas.

Thomas: So you were really immersed in the entire collection; it's almost as if you walked into the ad campaign.

The collection sold out before the Target pop-up store was scheduled to close. Now lots of big chains are working pop-up stores. Twenty-five Borders will pop up this holiday season. Toys "R" Us will open up 600 express stores, and hire thousands of seasonal workers.

Deb Purcell with Pitney Bowes Business Insight says it's all about convenience, grabbing shoppers wherever they are.

Deb Purcell: It's really I think about capturing that consumer's first impulse to make a purchase, and prevent those dollars from going to competition.

Before the recession, most landlords refused to rent short term space. But that changed when retail vacancies began to climb. They're around 12 percent this year.

Paula Harris is a manager at Northgate Mall in Durham, N.C. She leased short term space to Toys "R" Us for the holiday shopping season.

Paula Harris: We have some empty spaces, let's face it. But that does give us an opportunity, that while we're waiting, we have a full space, rather than an empty space.

For some retailers, pop-ups are a chance to test the waters, to see if you can make it in the bricks-and-mortar world.

E-tailer Christina Norsig sells luxury china and glassware at eTabletop.com -- not the kind of stuff people buy on impulse. So last year, she took a chance on a physical space in New York.

Christina Norsig: What was neat about having a pop-up shop at Christmas, was that I could still be eTabletop, but also have crystal candlesticks and interesting things people could walk out the door with.

There will be no Tabletop pop-up this year. But Norsig's store spawned a new business: PopUpInsider.com. Her firm matches retailers searching for short term space with willing landlords.

Norsig: It's what I call bricks, clicks and quicks. We have our brick-and-mortar stores, we have our Internet business, and now we have quicks, meaning temporary real estate.

The pop up concept has even spread to brands that don't normally have stores. Brides Magazine just opened up a temporary space where brides to be can taste cakes, look at dresses and brush up on wedding etiquette.

Procter & Gamble rented a store for 10 days on New York's 57th Street.

"Hi how are you! Welcome to P and G Brand Saver Live..."

The store gave people a chance to try out P&G products, like Olay skin creams and Clairol's Nice 'n Easy.

Customer Joyce Hom took advantage of the free style session to glam up her black hair with an auburn sheen.

Joyce Hom: I love it. It's just, the color the shine, I wish I had someplace to go tonight to show it off.

All the primping and free products made customers giddy.

Pop-up stores may be temporary, but to customers, they have to feel like regular stores, or it could hurt a brand's image.

Deb Purcell, with Pitney Bowes says you don't want to let customers down.

Purcell: It could actually back fire, if the store's being staffed with temporary help, or if the merchandise is not in stock that the customer needs.

If they avoid those pitfalls, Purcell says pop-up shops could boost sales figures for retailers, cut lines for customers and just maybe, a few of those short term leases will turn into permanent tenants.

In New York, I'm Janet Babin for Marketplace.

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