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

Site C dam goes ahead, cost up to $10.7 billion

Premier John Horgan approves completion of B.C.’s costliest project

Langley RCMP seek man wanted for drug charges

David Main was last seen living in Langley City.

FVRD fire dispatch services to move from Chilliwack to Vancouver

Six part-time jobs eliminated; employees told of the decision two weeks before Christmas

Pellet gun prompts Langley RCMP to respond

A report of a firearm drew a large number of officers to Langley City.

Police converge on Abbotsford home after report of man with a gun

Incident took place Sunday afternoon on McCallum Road

VIDEO: Highstreet Holiday Show

Abbotsford shopping centre brings the holiday spirit

Red Scorpion associates cuffed in drug-trafficking bust

Kamloops RCMP lay charges in connection to Red Scorpion drug trafficking ring

BC Ferries adds extra sailings for Christmas

More than 175 sailings are being added, including 130 between the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island

Emergency response ‘well executed’ in B.C. carbon monoxide poisoning

Emergency Health Services talks about how first responders dealt with this ‘mass casualty event’

Otter Co-op funds wetlands project

Otter Co-Op helps Abbotsford Mission Nature Club build $90,000 wildlife viewing platform

WestJet Christmas video turns children’s wishes into reality

This year’s annual video took a new spin on the 12 days of Christmas

VIDEO: Cloverdale gets ‘Supernatural’ as fog, film crews descend

TV series Supernatural filming today in downtown Cloverdale.

Firefighters protect seaside California towns as blaze rages

A flare-up on the western edge of Southern California’s largest and most destructive wildfire sent residents fleeing Sunday

Putin declares victory on visit to air base in Syria

Declaring a victory in Syria, Putin on Monday visited a Russian military air base in the country and announced a partial pullout of Russian forces from the Mideast nation.

Most Read