What’s “In Store” for the Pop-Up Industry in 2015

By Jeremy Baras

Pop-up IndustryPop-ups are no longer just a trend. As more big brands use them, and more venues are open to hosting pop-ups, retailers of all sizes are taking advantage of this unique experience. “Pop-up” is a broadly generic term that includes any type of retail establishment, dining option, or event that is strictly temporary. Anything can be a pop-up, but they are all united by the idea that they are here today, gone tomorrow.

It is the mysterious nature of pop-ups that makes them so “popular”. There is something exciting, and even a little clandestine, about entering a store that won’t be there in a few days—and wasn’t there the week before. Pop-ups often offer exclusive, impromptu or handmade, locally sourced products. These outlets are an exciting change to the typical homogenous, big-brand, impersonal online and retail mall shopping experiences that are so common.

This excitement is reflected in the numbers. The pop-up industry comprises about $50 billion in sales every year, according to an analysis we conducted of various pop-up sectors, using approximate sales numbers provided by the U.S. government, trade associations or third-party organizations.

Although there may be others, according to an internal survey, the following categories are the biggest players in the pop-up market: farmers markets at $8 billion, flea markets at $30 billion, food trucks at $1 billion, yard sales at $1 billion, and pop-up stores, festivals, crafts and classes at close to $10 billion.

When asked to name the top reasons to shop or visit a pop-up store, seasonal products top the list, cited by 61% of respondents to our poll. Ranked next were “finding new or unique services/products” (39%), “shop locally” (36%), “great prices” (34%), “convenience” (33%) and have “a fun experience” (30%).

So what do we expect for pop-ups in 2015? We see these trends:

• Companies who have made their living largely online, such as Amazon, eBay, Etsy, Google, and thousands of e-tailers, have discovered the benefits of pop-up shops as complementary to their online models, and we expect that to grow exponentially. Consumers still want to try and touch, still want to have a shopping experience, and quite frankly, too many products that are ordered online are being returned. So now, instead of “offline” turning to “online,” we are seeing the reverse of that trend.

• Instead of popping up mainly in empty storefronts, pop-up shops will be locating more frequently in shared spaces. Scented candle makers will set up shop within florists. Manicurists will staff stations within hair salons. Accessory designers will be given spaces within apparel stores. These shared venues will not only help both parties reduce expenses, but each will benefit from the other’s foot traffic.

• Pop-ups will become a favorite tool of municipal economic development officials who, faced with tight budgets, will spur commercial revitalization by fostering pop-up marketplaces in moribund shopping districts.

• Our online directory (www.popuprepublic.com) featured over 7,000 pop-ups in 2014 alone and we are expecting that number to explode in 2015.

Pop-ups also will start playing another important role: rather than being shopping beacons for trend followers, they will become go-to retail destinations for trendsetters, those who still want to discover exclusive items that speak to them alone.