THE STALLS in the underground shopping center of Sinchon change as quickly as the seasons. From shops for enterprises such as Shiro and Maro to the merchandises from the Korean television program, Infinity Challenge, pop-up stores have progressed into an expansive phenomena in South Korean society. An idea from Los Angeles, the pop-up store is a retail concept of temporarily opening sales spaces that creatively display a company’s products to attain consumers’ attention. The term pop-up literally signifies that the store “pops up” for a few days and then disappears.
What are the benefits?
The concept of short-termed pop-up stores is not a completely new phenomenon. These stores are everywhere at all times: during holidays, on occasions such as Valentine’s Day and Halloween, and when brands release seasonal products. Now, pop-up stores are more than an ephemeral craze. They evolved into a fruitful marketing strategy for brands, especially for start-ups.
One of the primary benefits that the companies gain is brand awareness. With exposure, they can increase popularity among consumers, and as people express interests in the brand and upload the unique display of products on their social media platforms, a namesake may spawn. Moreover, rental costs for storefronts can be minimized. Companies temporarily open the stores in small sizes, so it is cost-efficient. This means that the brands can take advantage of premium marketplaces at a comparatively low cost. In addition, brands, both large and small, can conduct an experiment at a low risk with limited investment. They can launch various products to collect consumers’ response and immediately receive feedback. The Poundshop, a retail platform for new artists, was founded in April, 2010 in London. The retail allows new designers to preview the market reaction for their artisan products, which are sold inexpensively, ranging from £1 to £10. With such wide affordability, the designers can experiment with their products and decide whether to continue with the production or not. The risk adversity is consequently reduced due to the short-lived nature of the store.
Why are consumers attracted?
This ongoing momentum of pop-up stores would not have sustained without the consumers’ participation. The temporal nature of the stores and the introduction of exclusive products in limited edition captivate the consumers. Because consumers are unable to predict when the store will disappear or resurface, they are automatically attracted to visit the store. After making its appearance for a short period of time, a brand may return in a few weeks or months with an entirely refurbished format at a different location, a new brand image, or even new products. According to Paste Magazine, Pantone, an internationally recognized color provider, opened a pop-up café during the summer of 2015 in Monaco, Italy, in collaboration with Riccardo Giraudi, the chief executive officer of the Monaco Restaurant Group. Pantone curated a color-coded menu and provided a multisensory experience for aesthetic fanatics. In response to fervent support, Pantone returned to Monaco in the summer of 2016 and briefly reopened the café, demonstrating that its impermanence definitely engrossed the consumers.
Another enchanting element of pop-ups is their surprise. These stores are capable of sufficing consumers’ incessant demand for originality. According to Insider, Magnum, an ice-cream company, opened its pop-up store in New York City, allowing the customers to customize their own ice creams. As there are more than 200,000 possible combinations with diverse toppings and dippings, the customers are allured by the surprises of the ice cream bar each time they visit. This characteristic stimulates an appealing aspect of surprise for the consumers, and keeps them coming back to try new things.
Pop-up stores in South Korea
Pop-up stores are a special feature of Garosu-gil in Sinsa-dong. While it is a well-known commercial area, Garosu-gil no longer consists of sufficient spaces for companies to promote their brands for a limited time. According to Joongang Daily, opening retail businesses in Garosu-gil is extremely costly. Newer brands adapted to this over time.Now, they are opening pop-up stores elsewhere to arouse consumer demand for numerous products. Many pop-up stores are introduced near Myeong-dong, Apgujeong-dong and Gangnam Station. And indeed the costs of opening the retails differ wholly. While some locations tentatively offer the empty spaces without charges, others entail rental fees of up to \18 million. The interior decorations can also be costly.
The hot spot these days is near Hongik University Station, Hongdae, where university students and young people frequent. The brands consider establishing pop-up stores in this area to construct a younger appeal for their products. For instance, in 2014, Levi’s, an American clothing company, popularized its summer line, Cool Jeans, in Hongdae. The company used to establish pop-up retail ventures near Garosu-gil to promote its Revel line, which was targeted at female customers in their thirties. However, the brand transferred its place to craft a trendier and younger image for the Cool Jeans line.Similarly, in the same year, Estée Lauder, a cosmetics company, temporarily rented a café in Hongdae to publicize its lipsticks to the younger neighborhood. Until 2013, the company opened its pop-up stores in Garosu-gil, but changed locations to market their latest products to younger women.
Foreign brands that attempt to enter the Korean market utilize the pop-up store as a method to strengthen their brand recognition. Before opening its first store on December, 2014 in Gwangmyeong, Gyeonggi-do, Ikea, a Swedish furniture retailer, created a story room that displayed items that weren’t for sale. Although it wasn’t a pop-up store, in which consumers could purchase Ikea’s products, the story room undoubtedly enabled consumers to foretaste the brand. Through pop-ups, foreign brands also examine consumer patterns and the unfamiliar commercial areas.
The demand for pop-up stores even gave way to the creation of Common Ground, situated near Konkuk University Station. Common Ground is Korea’s first venue designed specifically for housing pop-up stores. Comprised of numerous shipping containers, this pop-up container shopping mall presents an innovative cultural platform, introducing new designers and select shops. These containers can be renovated into diverse structures and even moved to different places. “The place itself is extremely interesting because I could take a glimpse of the unknown brands. It isn’t the typical shopping district that I am accustomed to. I was also entertained by the exhibitions and performances held in the central square,” Eun Ji-su (Jr., Dept. of Econ.) said.
Pop-up stores are accessible not only along the streets, but also in department stores today. According to Edaily, establishing pop-up stores emerged into a crucial marketing strategy for department stores. Department stores purposefully lease their spaces to discover prospective brands and designers. They are able to maximize consumer attraction by reconditioning the venue to host various brands, ranging from small business products to K-pop merchandise. On June, 2012, the Lotte Department Store located in Myeong-dong, dedicated an entire floor to pop-up stores named “The Wave.” Approximately 52 m2 in size, “The Wave” presents different brands on weekly rotations. Lotte Department Store effectively grasps consumers’ attention by introducing trendy products that are popular on social networking platforms. Likewise, Hyundai Department Store in Sinchon, situated near numerous universities, successfully utilizes this marketing strategy to target young customers. On June of last year, the store opened the “Over Action Rabbit” pop-up store, a character merchandise retailer, which attracted 5,000 customers per day and gained roughly \10 billion as revenue. “I was delighted to spot these adorable characters on the way to school. This surprise went viral and attracted many people to U-Plex,” said Choi Jeong-yeon (Jr., Dept. of Systems Biology).
Similarly, from the brand’s perspective, temporarily making its appearance in a department store is definitely productive. Especially in South Korea, economic growth has been hampered due to prolonged stagnation of consumption. The companies cannot guarantee their success under such unpromising circumstances. Instead of permanently renting places in the department stores, having to confront with the sales pressure, these brands turn their eyes to opening temporary retail spaces to publicize their products. Consequently, the department stores and the brands that partake in pop-up stores can mutually benefit.
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Pop-up stores are the result of the ever-changing expectations of consumers. The longevity of this particular marketing strategy cannot be guaranteed, as consumers continuously demand for novel concepts; however, pop-ups are surely one of the commendable approaches to fulfill the insatiable appetites of consumers under the current economic situation.
*Hyundai U-Plex: A department store located in Sinchon district