The notion of what constitutes a pop-up may be changing, but it is an increasingly important approach for retailers of all kinds to consider.

Kim Winser, the former Marks & Spencer director, is to take her Winser London brand to Fenwick on Bond Street in the shape of a pop-up.

Nothing too remarkable in this perhaps – pop-ups open all the time. It is however indicative of why the better department stores continue to thrive, and equally, why the UK has a disproportionately high number of businesses of this kind compared to other countries in Europe.

There are several big department store groups in this country where most others have only one or two chains that could be identified as such. And those in the UK are adapting to ensure their continued relevance.

Until relatively recently, pop-ups were considered to be an agitprop form of retail which tended to involve wannabe brands and retailers setting up shop in premises that were between tenants. They didn’t last long and their hallmark was a ‘make-do and mend’ approach to shopfit, which was considered part of their charm.

Then suddenly things moved in another direction – department stores in particular started to talk about hosting pop-ups and the look and feel of these enterprises became altogether slicker.

But isn’t this more to do with what department stores do as a matter of course – granting concession space for an agreed sum?

To a point, this is certainly the case, but the difference is that pop-ups remain for a limited time and yet still manage to retain a ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ ambience, even where they have been carefully designed and lovingly fitted-out.

Brand diversity

The issue at hand is hosting.

Big shops and department stores need variety to give shoppers a reason to keep coming back. Pop-ups serve the purpose and are good for all concerned.

“Department stores need variety to give shoppers a reason to keep coming back. Pop-ups serve the purpose”

John Ryan

A temporary store that operates within a much larger permanent shop could be termed an ‘event’, and this gives the host store some marketing muscle in a way that merely opening a new concession probably would not.

The principle holds good for any operator within the retail spectrum while the entrepreneurial pop-up retailer benefits from being in a high footfall environment.

More than ever, the pop-up is the way forward for fledgling retailers as much as established brands and retail outfits – it’s just that the location and appearance of the format is shifting.

And perhaps more importantly, pop-ups give shoppers something new and worth inspecting as they trawl the high street.