Retail giants seize on pop-ups to woo millennials

Pop-up shops backed by big corporations now spring up like whack-a-moles

To drum up excitement around the launch of a credit card targeting the oft-pursued millennial demographic, American Express Canada tapped several star chefs last month to serve Instagram-worthy plates at a restaurant in Toronto that would launch and shutter within a week.

Before Japanese clothing retailer Uniqlo opened its first Vancouver location this month, it ran a shop with a twist for one day. The location was stocked with flannel shirts, but employees asked Canadians to choose between leaving with a free one or gifting it to a newcomer.

Later this month, Google will open a temporary doughnut store in Toronto, promoting its new smart speaker, the Google Home Mini, simultaneously.

While the pop-up shop may have started as a way for online retailers to stage a lower-risk experiment with a physical presence, the temporary storefront has morphed into a marketing tool for established brands, often ones that already boast multiple locations.

“It’s definitely a trend,” said Tamara Szames, a Canadian retail analyst for apparel and footwear with the NPD Group.

Even Ikea Canada, which operates a dozen stores in the country, has created multiple short-lived shops. In June, the Swedish retailer opened the Ikea Play Cafe in Toronto where shoppers could sample meatballs, play a giant pinball machine and, of course, shop a small selection of the company’s kitchen products.

Pop-up shops backed by big corporations now spring up like whack-a-moles, and Szames thinks it’s “a very smart trend.”

Companies can change the conversation with consumers and align brand messaging, she said, pointing to struggling department store chain Sears.

In April, Sears hosted a pop-up in a downtown Toronto neighbourhood Vogue identified as the world’s second hippest in 2014. The trendy spot intended to woo millennial consumers with Sears’s new private label brand as the company attempted to re-invent itself amid sluggish sales.

That experience could change the way a consumer views the company and prompt them to either travel to one of their permanent stores to shop or to their online store, said Szames.

A temporary location also lets established Canadian companies test new markets in a vast country or international retailers experiment with the Canadian consumer, she said.

Japanese-based Muji, for example, offered a pop-up shop in Vancouver earlier this year and later opened a location at Metropolis at Metrotown in nearby Burnaby.

The method provides additional benefits for big brands whose products are sold in other companies’ stores.

Nestle Canada, for example, hosted a smattering of pop-up shops this past year. In Montreal, people could customize Delissio Rustico margherita pizzas. In Toronto, passersby could sample Haagen-Dazs ice-cream flights a la wine tastings and ice-cream cocktails during happy hour. Later in the summer, pedestrians could stop at a makeshift campground and roast s’mores using Aero chocolate.

The practice allows the company to develop an experience for consumers they don’t get to interact with in stores, and re-invent a brand for new, younger demographics, said Tracey Cooke, vice-president of communication and marketing excellence at Nestle.

The company sees a direct positive relation with sales in the vicinity of the pop-up, she said.

She acknowledges the pop-up is not necessarily a novel concept anymore and retail is on the brink of a saturation in the marketplace.

“I think everybody is on the pop-up bandwagon,” she said.

Still, she doesn’t foresee them disappearing any time soon as consumers, especially millennials, respond to experiences. For Nestle Canada, she said, pop-ups will remain in their playbook.

Follow @AleksSagan on Twitter.

Aleksandra Sagan, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

UPDATE: Motorist dies near Ponoka after loose tire collides with vehicle

Ponoka RCMP seek assistance in locating vehicle belonging to the tire

Almost 100 kgs of suspected cocaine seized at Coutts border crossing

84 bricks of suspected cocaine seized from California residents’ vehicle; largest recorded seizure.

Millet’s longest consecutive serving councillor awarded

Former councilor Eleanor Pydde honoured after 19 years

Wetaskiwin Salvation Army Food Bank seeks community support

CP Holiday Train to visit Wetaskiwin Dec. 6

Calling all Christmas letter lovers

The Pipestone Flyer is publishing letters to Santa in its Christmas Greetings special section

New fighter-jet competition to have national ‘economic interest’ requirement

Trudeau government wants to replace Canada’s aging CF-18s with 88 new fighters by as early as 2025

WestJet Christmas video turns children’s wishes into reality

This year’s annual video took a new spin on the 12 days of Christmas

VIDEO: ‘Last Jedi’ premiere kicks off with droids, Daisy Ridley

Latests Star Wars film premiered in style ahead of Dec. 15 theatre debut

Canadians urged to exercise caution in Middle East ahead of protests

Protests are in reaction to Trump’s announcement that the U.S. will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel

Feds planning to push back delivery date for new fighter jets: sources

The Liberals had planned to buy 18 Super Hornets

Facebook launches parent-controlled Messenger app for kids

It’s currently only available in the U.S. as an app for Apple devices but will be expanded for versions on Android and Amazon tablets

Gregg Zaun apologizes after being fired for inappropriate comments

Former broadcaster was fired after Sportsnet said it received complaints from female employees

Ottawa willing to give more pot tax revenue to provinces to help cities

Finance Minister Bill Morneau willing to increase share next week with provinces and territories

Most Read