Bit of a rant this, but when is a pop-up shop not worth the space on which it is temporarily situated? The answer’s really simple, when it doesn’t convince you that it’s worth a visit.
A quick scoot round the Phaidon pop-up on Kings Road last week rather illustrates the point. Quite a lot of noise has been made about this one, mostly, it is fair to assume, by people who haven’t visited.
But the reality is that this is a white box store, white shop furniture and a range of discounted art books. As such it is utterly unexceptional and you wonder why anyone bothered – although perhaps the landlord has handed the space over for such a peppercorn rent that it would have been rude to refuse.
Pop-ups do have a habit of, well, popping-up at the moment, spurred on by the efforts of landlords to convince us that shopping streets and centres are still tenable. Of course they are, and in the case of many pop-ups, the Doc Martens, Chelsea Cobbler and Marmite shops all being good examples, they add to the sum of our enjoyment.
A little discretion should be exercised however and if sites are going cheap, then the quid pro quo of any pop-up transaction should be that the incoming temporary tenant is urged to do rather more than opt for the lowest common denominator.
All of which notwithstanding, it’s quite easy to imagine pop-ups becoming the new shop norm rather than the exception. They are, after all, the low-cost, low-risk way of trying things out. And that’s exactly the way it should be. If a retailer, brand or entrepreneur sees a way of doing something differently, then everybody is likely to benefit – shoppers and those who set up the shops. It’s actually no different from what retailers who dream up new formats do, it’s just that the whole process has been given a bit of an amphetamine shot in the arm.
No excuse for mediocrity then, particularly at a time when customers are harder to come by. Pop-up retailers should aim to surprise and nowhere more so than when they take space on a prime selling street. Providing this view is taken it will be better for everyone and pop-up store owners will lean lessons that can be applied when better times return.
And with last week’s announcement that further First Quench stores are to go and Borders’ collapse into administration, it seems very probable that the pop-up phenomenon will be with us for some while yet.