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"Pop-Up Retail: Not Just For Start-Ups, And Other Learnings From Its Evolution"

"Pop-ups, while a relatively newer term for many Main Streets, have a long history in downtown and district activity; we just didn’t think of them as pop-ups. Temporary pop-up retail establishments date back to the Vienna “December Market” held in 1298 and in the European Christmas markets that followed. Over time, they evolved to include everything from seasonal farmers markets, July 4th fireworks stands, Halloween costume shops, consumer expos, and event-specific concessions.

Over the last decade, Main Streets and other revitalization entities across the U.S. have developed a number of iterations, from event-driven pop-ups, pop-ups in existing stores, and permanent pop-ups hosted by an organization. With only a few exceptions, these activities have centrally and almost exclusively focused on start-up businesses. As a vital place factor within an entrepreneurship ecosystem, pop-up programs allow for emerging businesses to test their product, gain consumer feedback, and promote their brand at an extremely low cost. In essence, allowing for a ‘fail-fast’ product development cycle.

Statistics on pop-ups are a little thin, but a recent report out of the UK from Everything Everywhere (EE) and the Center for Economic Business Research (CEBR) suggests the pop-up retail sector is growing at 12.3% per year. And the U.S. pop-up industry has grown to approximately $10 billion in sales, according to PopUp Republic. But it’s not just about the sale. Jeremy Baras, the CEO of PopUp Republic, indicates that, “Customers are attracted to exclusivity. They’re attracted to a ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ type of concept.” This is further reinforced by 2019 data from Statista that examined consumer reactions to pop-ups and the attraction for shopping at these temporary stores. The following graph highlights that key drivers revolve around the experience and the ability to support local small businesses; getting a good deal, meanwhile, is a distant fourth in priority."

Wagner, Matthew 2021, Main Spotlight: Pop-Up Retail: Not Just For Start-Ups, And Other Learnings From Its Evolution, Main Street America, <>.

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