The life has gone out of many pop-ups and they’re there because they have to be.
A rough count in London’s West End last week revealed, that there were at least four new pop-up shops up and running and that by the end of the this week three of them will be no more. The Wired magazine and Cornish clothing brand Finisterre’s pop-ups were attracting a fair amount of media attention, although Carnaby Street’s Rolling Stone t-shirt emporium was struggling to shift its wares even though “The World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band” had done its O2 thing. And then there was the Ebay pop-up that was supposedly marking the run-up to today’s peak online shopping period (although strange that a development featuring terrestrial shops should deem this a winner). All of them seemed worth a visit, if only because they were so focused in terms of their offers. These were Marmite stores insofar as you either loved them or ignored them totally and, come to that, Marmite had a pop-up store at the back end of 2009 in the same location as the Wired shop.
Which does make you think. Back then, pop-ups were not exactly new, but they were something that was worthy of taking a look at because there really weren’t many of them. Fast forward to Christmas 2012 and there are books about pop-ups, websites devoted to following their brief lives and there’s even a pundit who is currently declaring that 2013 will be the year of the pop-up.
Well maybe, but rather than a burst of creative retail energy, is the rash-of pop-ups symptomatic of all-round trouble? The not-very-hidden agenda is that there are a lot of pop-ups around currently because not only do they create interest, but they also fill gaps in high streets and schemes.
The pop-ups mentioned at the top of this piece are true pop-ups, but there are plenty now using the label that appear and then refuse to go away. Another word for this is, a short-term lease. These are no different from any other shop really – they just may not be around for quite as long. And yet somehow, calling a unit a temporary or short-term let isn’t quite as seductive sounding as the term pop-up.
The possible truth is that while there are still a few genuinely short-lived pop-ups, there are many that aren’t. The latter are, in effect, sticking plasters used to patch the holes in flagging schemes. 2013 may turn out to be the year of the pop-up, but this may not necessarily be worthy of quite the degree of celebration that it still seems to excite.