Pop-ups seem to be on the increase as we head toward the festive season, with empty units being occupied by online retailers looking to go physical.

While we are gearing up for the season to be jolly, ’tis also the season to cash in. This year, perhaps more than previous years, there seems to be an increase in pop-up merchants, all eager to benefit from our penchant for splashing the cash in the run-up to December 25.

American outfits Nasty Gal and Birchbox have both made appearances on Carnaby Street within the last fortnight, and Amazon will, it claims, be the “Home of Black Friday” in Soho from 21-24 November.

What all three have in common is that they are all not physical retailers.

Getting physical

Now seems to be the time online retailers wants to get physical. Things may be easier today than in festive seasons of the past, as there are a fair few empty units retail landlords are eager to fill.

It is worth noting however, that there are many pop-ups out there already that look and feel like a third year university student’s final art project.

For example, with windows filled with tinsel and neon signage, rugs that look like they are from Ikea and graphics that consist of garments that have had frames put around them, Nasty Gal is a low-cost effort.

The problem is that while it feels low cost, the products turn out to be anything but. There was a time when this was perfectly acceptable and almost expected, but many retailers have moved on from this and offer shoppers pop-up stores that have the ambiance of something more permanent.

The real question – particularly for online retailers looking to grab a share of the profits in the golden quarter – is whether they are learning anything, or if it is a case of making as much money as possible before running away?

If it is the latter, then all well and good – there are many who would praise them for doing so. If, however, the intention is to test the market and see whether there is life in the physical world for online retailers, then by fully committing to fixtures and fittings is not going to yield much in terms of lessons learned.

Based on the current showing, do not expect too many online retailers that are taking up temporary residence to be much more than a fleeting phenomenon.