How a playful approach to retail can drive business growth

5 Sep 2018

In a world where more and more people are looking to spend their money on experiences over products, physical retail has become an important way for brands to build emotional connections with their fans. Pop-ups in particular give brands the flexibility to be more specific in where, when and how they attract an audience and therefore become a far more effective way to grow the business over bombarding the masses with generic campaigns.

Where once pop-ups were mainly associated with high-street charity shops, today everyone from emerging designers to global luxury fashion houses are jumping on board. What’s more exciting is that the success stories have been less about the budget and more about the idea. Temporary stores are currently estimated to be a $50 billion global industry so even though the stores themselves don’t last, the concept is just gathering momentum.


In order to survive, fashion brands are aware they need to offer something more than just products to buy. People are looking for moments they can share, souvenirs of their experiences and ways to fill up their Instagram feeds as well as their shopping bags. The challenge for retail brands is how can they bring their products to life in a way that engages people in the real world. Luckily, the fashion industry is built on creativity, inspiration and emotion, so it’s an easy one to play around with. A good pop-up doesn’t just mean a physical experience either, it could be emotional or even spiritual. Coach caused a storm with its #LifeCoach activation which celebrated New York’s creative spirit. Visitors were encouraged to explore the space through drawing on walls, playing kitsch carnival games and having their futures told by psychics.

Mansur Gavriel

When it comes to the physical space, it pays to go big and stand out and create something worth sharing online. According to the Guardian, black is out and instead, fashion has become a kaleidoscope of “millennial peacocking.” This applies to a brand’s store aesthetic too. Just look at Mansur Gavriel’s ‘Candy Shop,’ which was appropriately covered floor-to-ceiling in millennial pink. Or how about Supreme’s collaboration with Louis Vuitton – the aggressively bright red shopfronts were as cocky as the brand itself. During NYFW, Tory Burch filled a space with thousands of pink carnations and moss to mirror the floral, feminine style of the new collection. Similarly, Chanel’s beauty pop-up in LA featured purples, oranges and pink whereby forgoing their classic black-and-white brand for something fresher. All drew in crowds like colour-hungry moths to a flame, which spread further online.

Tory Burch

Pop-ups also bridge the (once ginormous) gap between designers and consumers. They’ve become a place where brands can reveal a behind-the-scenes look at their business such as the inspirations behind the latest collection or a new part of their brand’s story. For example, Melbourne-based designer Stephanie Downey launched a temporary ‘Dress Up’ store where she put on dinner parties for friends to network. The meetups were even turned into a short film called ‘The Dinner’. Events like these provide a platform for the final step in the customer journey i.e. a real-life reason to wear the new clothes. At the end of the day, it’s what they were made for in the first place.


The best fashion pop-ups from the last few years have one thing in common: they don’t overwhelm customers with a barrage of products and tailor their offering to the location and audience. For instance, this summer Dior set up shop on the upmarket island of Mykonos, selling high-end holiday pieces, including several versions of their tote bags. While Fendi targeted London’s surge in tourists over the summer installing an ice-cream stand in Selfridges, where visitors could also buy bespoke Fendi postcards designed by an in-house calligrapher.

Coach ©Appear Here

What’s interesting is that fashion brands are now measuring the success of these activations by the engagement they drive in store and online. Sales in store are often a secondary focus – or not relevant at all. Many online direct-to-consumer fashion brands view their website as their flagship and pop-ups as an extension of their advertising campaigns.

Fashion brands are embracing the flexibility of pop-ups to keep their retail presence fresh and relevant. Temporary spaces allow brands to explore their personality, see what works and test the market before committing to something more permanent. Experimentation opens brands up to new audiences, gives their existing customers new reasons to interact and ultimately leads to ideas worth sharing.