As the retailers of all sizes get smitten with the pop-up store bug, the real estate business, with its multi-year leases, is struggling to keep up. Enter Storefront, an online matchmaker for pop-up stores and landlords, which launched in New York and Brooklyn June 26 after a short beta period.
Similar to sharing-economy companies such as Airbnb (which matches local homeowners with travelers who need an overnight stay) Storefront is a startup Web site that connects retail brands with property owners willing to lease by the day, week or month. The San Francisco-based company says its goal is to make setting up a short-term offline store as easy as starting an online one.
National Geographic, for example, opened a 1,000-square-foot pop-up store in a historic converted firehouse in San Francisco’s Russian Hill neighborhood using Storefront, said co-founder and CEO Erik Eliason. Since its founding six months ago, thestorefront.com has coordinated 100 pop-ups in the Bay Area and Silicon Valley and is currently working with several Fortune 500 brands, including large technology companies, he said.
Researcher IBISWorld found 2,380 pop-up shops in the U.S. in 2012. Many e-commerce companies are now looking for a way to meet their customers in person without the expensive overhead of a traditional store, Eliason said. And existing retail brands, like National Geographic, often want to be seen in creative spaces, including hotel lobbies, art galleries, coffee houses and book stores, he noted.
Prices on Storefront run the gamut, from $750 a day for 200 square feet in a co-working center in the San Francisco financial district, to $50 a day for 120 square feet in consignment shop in the Mission district. In New York, high-demand areas include Grand Central Terminal and various Brooklyn neighborhoods, said Eliason.
Another recent match in San Francisco was menswear company Northern Grade, which operated a one-day pop-up on Saturday, June 1 at 111 Minna Gallery, an art gallery and theater. The clothing company promoted the quickie store as a venue where brand loyalists could meet their favorite designers while enjoying music, spirits and local food.
Experts foresee a pop-up boom as traditional malls decline. With an enormous, four-story mall, it’s difficult to meet everyone’s inventory needs all the time, said Wharton marketing professor David Bell. But at the same time, it is limiting for retailers to rely only on ecommerce. “Shoppers are seduced by the notion that pop-ups offer one-off opportunities, not to be repeated,” said Tim Denison, director at Ipsos Retail Performance. Unlike online shopping, ”pop-ups focus on visually powerful propositions that draw people’s attention.”
With the New York launch, Storefront will also help stores with their insurance, contracts, fixtures, staff and signage needs.