Pop-up retail has taken the UK by storm over the last few years, with temporary shops now proving a staple in many of the country’s busiest retail spaces.
The UK’s pop-up industry is estimated to be worth £2.3 billion, accounting for around 0.76 per cent of total retail turnover, according to EE’s Britain's Pop-Up Retail Economy report.
Furthermore, 44 per cent of customers say they have visited a pop-up shop in the last 12 months and the industry employs 26,200 people.
These figures could potentially increase dramatically, given the crippling hikes many retailers face under the new business rates revaluation and the increasing numbers of bricks-and-mortar retailers closing down and leaving behind vacant units.
Appear Here, a company at the forefront of the pop-up retail movement in London stated that there was £33 million in demand for pop-up spaces, with 3000 pop-up spaces in London alone last year.
Appear Here acts like a an "Airbnb for retail", allowing retail businesses to book a vacant space for short-term periods.
While based in London and focused on pop-up spaces all over the UK, it also has an office in Paris and it recently ventured into the US for the first time.
Appear Here’s chief marketing officer Elizabeth Layne said around three quarters of pop-up stores leased in the UK are by independent retailers or startup companies, given that they don’t yet have the means to consider a store in the prime retail locations where these pop-ups are situated.
“In terms of segments of customers that have grown, we're seeing more and more ecommerce companies that want to test offline,” she said.
“More independent brands, or privately-owned start-ups tend to be the big majority in the UK. They have a bit more freedom, they take longer leases. They have a mix as to whether they’re using the space for selling or marketing, sometimes both.
“We’ve seen so many brands actually launch their business with a pop-up. Whether it's launching in a new market or completely launching from scratch.
“Some brands that are now becoming fixtures in London actually launched with an Appear Here pop-up. They’ve used us to test the market, test their idea, hone in on their product.”
Despite the obvious benefits available for independent brands, big name retailers are also jumping on the pop-up bandwagon.
In a recent interview, Manchester Metropolitan University business school Professor Gary Warnaby told the Retail Gazette that the retail landscape was perhaps contracting, and that “physical stores as a show room rather than a selling space might be a way forward".
According to Layne, this is a trend that has been seen from established retailers using pop-up spaces.
“From a trend perspective, we have seen more bigger brands using retail space as media space,” she said.
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“They’ve seen that its more efficient in some ways than traditional media outlets like TV or at home. It really offers an opportunity to engage with customers.
“Some interesting examples there could be Hunter Boots, which booked space with us in Piccadilly Circus station.
“They booked several units, they didn’t sell merchandise there. Instead they used the space to create an installation which then drove traffic to their store not too far away.
“With the ability to book short term rent this is actually pretty affordable for them. And in in some cases it has a more efficient reach than traditional media. It’s the marketers from these companies booking the space, as opposed to the retail directors.
“I think brands are demanding flexibility, most of all digital brands. They want to still connect with their customer and they realise that still the majority of transactions originate in a store. Something like 80 per cent of Apple’s transactions happen in a store," Layne continued.
“So it’s great for customer acquisition and it’s great for brand awareness but you get so many efficiencies being an online brand.
“For them having a permanent footprint isn’t as important as popping up to build brand awareness, test the market reach their customers and continue the relationship online.
“Traditional retail is here to stay in the offline world, but I think brands are realising that they need to be a bit more innovative with consumes spending so much time online. They need to be a bit more about the experience than just about the product.”