Pop-up retail has always been possible, but maybe it just took the right group of people to make it work on a large scale. Storefront is a start-up company that helps businesses limited to just the web lease out vacant store space for a short amount of time. By developing productive relationships with brokers and real-estate agents, it’s a win-win for all parties.
The Storefront is clearly doing something right. In less than nine months, the successful startup has opened over 100 pop-up shops in San Francisco. “We’re empowering human-to-human connections,” says Storefront Co-Founder Tristan Pollack.
Tristan said their longest pop-up was four months, while the shortest was just one day. Despite their immediate success, Storefront is already planning for more growth. Now with a staff of seven, the group already has someone scoping out the scene in New York City.
Leasing vacant stores for short-term retail enables businesses unfamiliar to the real world to test the waters in a new environment. It creates new opportunity and enables online companies to market themselves offline. The customers, in-turn, are exposed to retail that was initially distant from them.
I experienced this firsthand when I attended an event for one of Storefront’s partners, Indochino. The online menswear service provides tailor-made suits and clothing to men around the world at an affordable price. Probably the most unique aspect of the company is that they will provide you with the perfectly fitted suit without having you try it on first.
Had I not known it was a pop-up, I would have assumed Indochino had been at this space for years. Immediately after walking through the doors, a friendly staff person stored my bag and introduced me to one of the fitters. She brought me to the second floor where she took six measurements, had me try on a test suit and then took down the adjustments that would be made; this was done in less than 10 minutes.
Afterwards, I was taken downstairs to pick out my fabric of choice, pattern and design, right down to the 40-character monogram that would go above my inner-left pocket. After purchasing the suit of my dreams for $560, with a modern design I might add, I went on to drink my first martini while getting my first shoeshine and chat with various entrepreneurs. Indochino would be at that spot for just two weeks, but that short window gave me the opportunity to experience a handful of first-times while meeting some fascinating people.
Although my rather bourgeoisie experience is reflective of a San Francisco culture, the pop-up movement can take place in many types of neighborhoods. Local artists and musicians in Oakland can lease out a storefront for a short amount of time to display their work. Pop-ups can help businesses grow, strengthen communities, diversify the retail scene and create a stronger relationship between the buyer and the consumer.
This business of short-term retail is reflective of our mobile, shared economy. More people can gain access to products that were initially inaccessible because the businesses carrying these products are literally popping up in more places. Increased accessibility benefits both parties while strengthening the communities and, most likely, the economies of these neighborhoods.
If you are wondering how something constantly on-the-go can create community, then I will tell you this – my time shopping at Indochino may have been the quickest shopping experience of my life, but it was also the most personal. For the ten minutes I spent trying on the suit and the next ten minutes I spent scouring the various designs and accessories, I had the same fitter with me the entire time. And this is coming from a guy who hates shopping.
Credits: Data linked to sources. Photos credit of Robert Poole and Storefront.