‘Pop-up’ stores an essential strategy in modern retailing, research says

New study analyses the strategies that lie behind a fresh retail trend

Researchers say the increasing use of pop-up is a sign of the changing landscape of retail consumer culture

Researchers say the increasing use of pop-up is a sign of the changing landscape of retail consumer culture

Pop-up retail spaces have become a necessary part of the shopping experience and play a key role in customer engagement, according to research from Manchester Metropolitan University and Coventry University.

With many retailers facing challenges in finding suitable space, structural changes in the retail sector and the need to respond to shifting consumer needs and behaviours, research has found that pop-up stores are now an essential part of a wide range of retailers’ strategies.

Published online in the Journal of Consumer Culture, the study identified the reasons why retailers from a range of backgrounds have turned to and evolved the use of pop-up spaces.

The study was conducted by Dr Charlotte Shi, from the University of Manchester, Professor Lee Quinn, from Coventry University and Gary Warnaby, Professor of Retailing and Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan’s Institute of Place Management (IPM).

Professor Warnaby said: “The increasing use of pop-up is a sign of the changing landscape of retail consumer culture. Technological innovation is blurring the line between retailers’ online and traditional in-store offerings, bringing both challenges and opportunities in how they interact with customers.”

While a focus on ‘selling’ remains key, there has been some reorientation towards ‘relationship-building’ and the development of a more experience-based interaction between brands and their customers.

Pop-up retailing sees brands and retailers open short-term sales spaces for a defined period before closing down, often coinciding with a timely event or based within popular areas in towns and cities.

A 2017 report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research on Britain's pop-up retail economy estimated that pop-up retailing contributes £2.3 billion to the UK economy each year.

The IPM at Manchester Metropolitan has recently added weight to the importance of pop-ups by identifying innovation, or opportunities to experiment, as one of the main priorities for retailers in 2020. 

IPM researchers argue that retail success on the high street is not just dependent on traditional investment and development, but can be kick-started by pop-up shops, festivals, events and community use of redundant retail space.

Professor Warnaby added: “The role of the retail store is changing, and while a focus on ‘selling’ remains key, there has been some reorientation towards ‘relationship-building’ and the development of a more experience-based interaction between brands and their customers.

“Through our research we have analysed how pop-ups are developed and implemented, what differentiates them from other traditional brand experiences and why historical negative connotations need to be challenged in order to better understand its role in contemporary consumer culture.”

The full research article, “Territorialising brand experience and consumption: Negotiating a role for pop-up retailing”, is available in the Journal of Consumer Culture.

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