Pop stars

How pop-up shops have given licensors and licensees a new revenue stream.
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It’s that age old question: how can I make my brand stand out at retail? And, with the traditional High Street avenue still taking something of a battering and retailers cutting down on lines and only taking on those they are confident will perform, pop-up shops – or temporary retail sites – are gaining favour from various quarters of the industry.

Brandnew is a privately owned brand communications agency specialising in four core disciplines: design, digital, retail experience and mobile. It has worked with a wide range of blue chip companies – from Coca-Cola and Vodafone, through to L’Oreal and American Express. Its work on the Maybelline pop-up store in Covent Garden last year brought the firm to the attention of BBC Worldwide, which was so impressed that it partnered with Brandnew for the retail aspect of the Doctor Who Experience at London’s Olympia.

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“We have done pop-up shops for brands as diverse as the Royal Mint to Maybelline to Virgin to the BBC, but the Doctor Who project was our first foray into the toy world,” Alex Johns, Brandnew’s MD tells Licensing,biz. “In short, we look after every aspect of retail for the Doctor Who Experience. We designed and built the shop, hired the staff, stocked it, fulfil new products and have recently designed and manufactured an exclusive range of products which launch in September. We are also in the process of launching an e-commerce site which we will design, run and fulfil for the BBC.”

Ian Wickham, head of retail development, licensed consumer products UK and EMEA at BBC Worldwide, explains: “The design of the Doctor Who Experience was very carefully chosen and develop to ensure that ‘experience’ continued from the exhibition into the retail environment. With the store being the last point of contact to the DWE, the last thing we wanted was for the consumer to leave thinking they have been through a shop. We wanted them to leave thinking they had just left the DWE, so right design, look and flow was critical to the development.”

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For BBCW, it worked so well that Wickham says there are currently other pop-up initiatives in discussion across a number of the firm’s brands that should be up and running during the next 12 to 18 months.

So, what’s the attraction for such short-term ventures?

“In simple terms, a pop-up is an opportunity to really surprise and delight customers, offering them a unique interaction with your brand that will last beyond the direct interaction,” offers Rupert Pick from brand licensing and retail innovation agency, Hot Pickle. The firm has worked with a range of global brands including Heinz Beans, Ketchup, Lea & Perrins, Ben & Jerrys, Lynx, Pizza Express and HP Sauce, while it was responsible for the successful Marmite pop-up shop in Selfridges earlier this year.

“If the pop-up is executed in the right way it can stretch beyond the physical store, sparking conversations and stories that stretch far and wide and for minimal incremental cost. The best way brands can harness the power of a pop-up is to understand how they can create a truly unique physical experience – through products, fixturing, the theatre – and then consider how this activity could be shared with a wider audience.

“It can also be used in a more directly commercial fashion to test market a new product or territory. It is a low cost option to launching a full scale store.”

Brandnew’s Johns concurs: “Pop-up shops or temporary retail sites are in vogue at the moment because of the tough trading conditions, however there are many different versions – High Street, in mall, shop in shop. If they are clever, brands can use pop-ups for a whole host of different things, for example pre-brand launches to test public reaction, consumer research, major brand launches and sponsorship activations – which we’ll see a lot of at the Olympics. Because pop-ups are pretty flexible – with short-term leases from two weeks to 12 months – brands can measure ROI down to the penny.”

From a brand owner’s point of view, BBCW’s Wickham says you really have to consider what your key objectives are before deciding if a pop-up is the right way to go. “If the exercise is an awareness driver, then the right site for the right brand is absolutely key,” he explains. “Cost is a consideration as is the design – to drive awareness the site needs to look engaging. The internal consumer experience also needs to be compelling. In a dedicated branded environment the consumer expects exclusivity, whether that comes in the form of one-off product of offers.”

For licensees, of course, pop-ups give them the opportunity to test products in advance of a full retail roll out – which happened quite a bit in the DWE, says Johns – while Pick points out that the Marmite shop helped drive distribution, while pop-ups in general offer licensees a guaranteed retail channel from which they can sell product.

Pick continues: “I think pop-up shops have reminded the world of retail that it’s a form of entertainment. The consumer bores quickly and once the High Street becomes staid and offers no more than a website, people will stop shopping in a physical form.”

Brandnew’s Johns concludes: “Today, many landlords see pop-ups as a great new source of revenue, better that than having a void space gathering dust. However, once space is selected, brands must live and breathe as a retailer. If done properly and the rules are followed, pop-ups are a fantastic and profitable business venture.”

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