Why Pop-Up Spaces Might Be The Future Of Shopping

Do not resuscitate brick-and-mortar retail: temporary stores are here to stay.

By Nathalie Nayman December 29, 2016

So, the good old brick-and-mortar retail seems to be more dead than alive. Such is the general consensus these days. To be fair, it’s kind of hard to disagree here, with all the store closings that plague NYC’s retail scene: a troubling pattern that makes the whole real estate industry worry – what on Earth are we going to do with all these ground floor vanilla boxes?

Related: Times Square Faces An Identity Crisis As Rents Fall And Retailers Bail

So far, we have lost (or are about to lose) some of the Uniqlo, Macy’s and Walgreens outlets – just to name a few. Many shed a tear over the FAO Schwartz, the most overpriced toy-store in the history of humanity that recently closed on the Fifth Avenue, as well as the untimely demise of NYC’s many bookstores that fell victim to Amazon’s all-pervasive business model.

The real question here is – who is the heir apparent?

If brick-and-mortar retail is truly dead, does it mean “long live the online stores”? Yes. And no. The glory days of the old-fashioned “rent a store for two years and pray that your stuff sells” model might, indeed, be over. This doesn’t necessarily mean that our shopping experience will end up being limited to online browsing and mouse clicks. Instead, along comes another trend which, as some predict, might be the real future for the NYC’s retail: pop-up spaces.

The idea of a temporary store that comes to the neighborhood for a couple of months (or even weeks) is not exactly new. Come September, one won’t be able to throw a cheap candy without hitting one of those Halloween sanctuaries, which will reap the cash harvest and then pack and leave as soon as fun time is officially over. What is changing, however, is that non seasonal businesses are also beginning to realize just how awesome the whole pop-up space idea is and how much potential it has.

The mere fact that a pop-up space by default has an expiration date is changing the old concept of a static, “respectable” store. “We will only be here for a couple of months,” reason businesses (or their marketing teams) – so why don’t we have a party? The result is fun, interactive, cleverly designed shops which generate more buzz and customer awe than your average store.

Basically, what pop-up spaces do is allow businesses to play with customers, turning the bland money-making process into a game and transaction – into a performance.

I’ll just let the examples speak for themselves:

Here Reebok opened a one-month store in NYC’s CVZ art gallery,


…Hermes opened a temporary silk bar,

Photo courtesy of Evoke

… and NesCafe opened a free coffee shop tent.

Photo courtesy Koyla via Flickr

What’s even more awesome here is that the pop-up space changes the whole “opening a business as a life-altering event” concept. Launching your own store used to be a ruthless “succeed or bite the dust” choice: the rent commitment alone scared away many a wannabe entrepreneur with brilliantly crazy ideas. Clay Forsberg, the founder of Community 3.0, claims that what these entrepreneurs desperately need now is a “flexibility to grow with “trial and error – and two-year lease in a fixed location just doesn’t cut it.”

With pop-up spaces, there are no strings attached and no pressure of a long-term relationship: you test your idea, network and just go with the flow. Now, what I find most intriguing is how pop-up spaces might potentially change the landscape of NYC. Will all stores eventually start wondering from one neighborhood to another? Will we, New Yorkers, happily chase them all over the city, the way we do with ethnic food carts and pokemons? Will pop-up spaces give us variety and spice up the urban life? And, finally, if brick-and-mortar retail is (like we supposed earlier) truly dead, maybe it’s better to not resuscitate it?

Nathalie Nayman

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Nathalie Nayman

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Nathalie Nayman

Nathalie is an international media trooper. After working as a journalist in Moscow, Nathalie participated in local politics and social movements in Cairo where she covered the protests and political upheaval of the Arab Spring. Nathalie is Agorafy's content manager. She produces and oversees unique and creative content for the Newsroom.

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