Retail giants seize on pop-ups to woo millennials

Pop-up shops backed by big corporations now spring up like whack-a-moles

To drum up excitement around the launch of a credit card targeting the oft-pursued millennial demographic, American Express Canada tapped several star chefs last month to serve Instagram-worthy plates at a restaurant in Toronto that would launch and shutter within a week.

Before Japanese clothing retailer Uniqlo opened its first Vancouver location this month, it ran a shop with a twist for one day. The location was stocked with flannel shirts, but employees asked Canadians to choose between leaving with a free one or gifting it to a newcomer.

Later this month, Google will open a temporary doughnut store in Toronto, promoting its new smart speaker, the Google Home Mini, simultaneously.

While the pop-up shop may have started as a way for online retailers to stage a lower-risk experiment with a physical presence, the temporary storefront has morphed into a marketing tool for established brands, often ones that already boast multiple locations.

“It’s definitely a trend,” said Tamara Szames, a Canadian retail analyst for apparel and footwear with the NPD Group.

Even Ikea Canada, which operates a dozen stores in the country, has created multiple short-lived shops. In June, the Swedish retailer opened the Ikea Play Cafe in Toronto where shoppers could sample meatballs, play a giant pinball machine and, of course, shop a small selection of the company’s kitchen products.

Pop-up shops backed by big corporations now spring up like whack-a-moles, and Szames thinks it’s “a very smart trend.”

Companies can change the conversation with consumers and align brand messaging, she said, pointing to struggling department store chain Sears.

In April, Sears hosted a pop-up in a downtown Toronto neighbourhood Vogue identified as the world’s second hippest in 2014. The trendy spot intended to woo millennial consumers with Sears’s new private label brand as the company attempted to re-invent itself amid sluggish sales.

That experience could change the way a consumer views the company and prompt them to either travel to one of their permanent stores to shop or to their online store, said Szames.

A temporary location also lets established Canadian companies test new markets in a vast country or international retailers experiment with the Canadian consumer, she said.

Japanese-based Muji, for example, offered a pop-up shop in Vancouver earlier this year and later opened a location at Metropolis at Metrotown in nearby Burnaby.

The method provides additional benefits for big brands whose products are sold in other companies’ stores.

Nestle Canada, for example, hosted a smattering of pop-up shops this past year. In Montreal, people could customize Delissio Rustico margherita pizzas. In Toronto, passersby could sample Haagen-Dazs ice-cream flights a la wine tastings and ice-cream cocktails during happy hour. Later in the summer, pedestrians could stop at a makeshift campground and roast s’mores using Aero chocolate.

The practice allows the company to develop an experience for consumers they don’t get to interact with in stores, and re-invent a brand for new, younger demographics, said Tracey Cooke, vice-president of communication and marketing excellence at Nestle.

The company sees a direct positive relation with sales in the vicinity of the pop-up, she said.

She acknowledges the pop-up is not necessarily a novel concept anymore and retail is on the brink of a saturation in the marketplace.

“I think everybody is on the pop-up bandwagon,” she said.

Still, she doesn’t foresee them disappearing any time soon as consumers, especially millennials, respond to experiences. For Nestle Canada, she said, pop-ups will remain in their playbook.

Follow @AleksSagan on Twitter.

Aleksandra Sagan, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Run for wounded soldiers, first responders stops in Qualicum Beach

Run started Feb. 19 in Port Hardy to conclude in Victoria Sunday, Feb. 25

Twitter feed prays for — instead of preying on — B.C. MLAs

Non-partisan Christian group wants to support politicians through personalized prayer

Adopted pet pig gets killed and eaten

Animal was adopted out by SPCA staff in the Cowichan Valley

Bucs take 2-0 series lead against the Generals

Game 3 will be played at Oceanside Place at 7 p.m.

Local running club wants track to be upgraded

President asks RDN to find a way to make improvements now instead of later

Therapy dogs make appearance at B.C. Games

The St. John’s Ambulance therapy dog program launches a pilot project at the 2018 Kamloops B.C. Winter Games

Canucks fold 5-3 in first ever trip to Vegas

Daniel Sedin had two points as Canucks fall to the Golden Knights Friday night

That’s a wrap: B.C. Games results after Day 1

Vancouver-Coastal Zone 5 is in the lead for medals Friday at the Kamloops 2018 B.C. Winter Games

Sticking the landing at the B.C. Games

Gymnasts talk competition, B.C. Winter Games, and teamwork in Kamloops

$153M in federal cash to fund child care, education training in B.C.

Bilateral agreement will create 1,370 new infant and toddler spaces

A B.C. woman talks her life in the sex trade

A view into the life from one Kelowna prostitute and the issues it can cause for women

Hundreds march for justice in death of Winnipeg teen

Tina Fontaine was pulled from a river in 2014, her body wrapped in a blanket and weighed down by rocks

Maritimes want their own CFL team

Their biggest hurdle is getting a stadium commitment in place

Most Read