ashionista recently published a wonderful article on how "Store" has become everyone's favorite 5-letter word to hate on - stores are dead, right? Well if you think all the formats below are not some version of a store, then let's suppose you're right. In any case, if you're considering selling your products in a physical space, you'll need to decide what format you'd like your non-store to take on, so let's go through the distinctions, benefits and draw-backs of what's out there in the market right now.
A pop-up is a temporary location that you typically occupy for between 3 months to a year. There are a number of reasons to open a pop-up, but most popular are the following:
Pop-ups are one of the best ways to find out if physical retail is a good strategy for your brand, while also providing a large marketing opportunity (an approach that is less justifiable when you open a permanent location). Pop-ups have also become easier to execute thanks to real-estate companies like AppearHere and Storefront that help brands lock down short-term spaces.
To execute a pop-up properly though, you'll want to first do your research on where you should be located, both in terms of city and neighborhood, how you'll market your location, and what KPI's you want to measure to determine if the pop-up was a success.
If you're not ready to own and operate your own space, you can also try a "pop-in", either into another brand's store or a department store. In fact, there are various marketplaces where you can find out which brands are willing to offer you some space to market a select few products. Pop-ins are particularly good when:
One of the major benefits of a pop-in is that the host brand or retailer brings in new traffic that may not have been aware of your brand previously. The only downside is you may not collect the same level of data or insights about who purchased. In a similar vein, it's important to do your research ahead of time to make sure that the two brands appeal to a similar consumer.
Warby Parker: King of the Activation - yes, before they had 60+ stores, the Warby guys sold glasses out of their apartments, from a school bus, and from a showroom in their office. The School Bus is the true "activation" here - a flash-sale opportunity that builds up a lot of buzz and and is great for creating urgency among your customers. School buses, festival drop-ins, and airstreams are some of the ways other brands have taken a one-off, big-bang approach to engaging with customers IRL.
Just because it's brief doesn't mean its easy though. In fact, the examples above were likely very costly and were largely an investment in the potential PR opportunity. However, activations don't always have to be so aggressive. Office and coworking space visits, local fairs and markets, and community trunk-shows are all more manageable "activations" that still get you face-to-face with your customers so you can hear their feedback.
Whether your merchandise is better suited for a certain climate or an area is only popular certain months out of the year, the neat thing about flexible real-estate is that you can optimize your store locations so that you're always in the right place at the right time.
Some great examples of brands who have embraced seasonality are Snowe, AYR, and Margaux. These brands have opened stores for the high season (whenever that may be) in places like Aspen, the Hamptons, Palm Beach and Nantucket in order to ensure that they are capitalizing on where their consumer spends their time, without having to worry about a dramatic drop in traffic during off-peak months.
Showrooms actually refer to the operations of a store rather than how long it will be around. Popularized largely by Bonobos, "showrooming" refers to having customers place their orders at your store and then having those orders ship from an external source (like a warehouse) instead of housing those items on-site. The plus side is that you can dedicate more square footage to salespace and you only need to store a limited number of items in each size since customers will only be trying those items on rather than taking them home.
While showrooms optimize space and limit inventory and fulfillment costs, it's important to have a way to track how showroom visits impact online sales so that you can monitor performance since all your "store sales" will be bucketed in with your online sales. While some customers also like being able to leave the location without extra baggage, showrooms also eliminate the opportunity for immediate wear.
Taking things a step further than pop-ins, you can now also partner with Retail-as-a-service shops like Showfields, Re:store, and Fourpost, all of which offer more modern, and flexible selling formats compared to traditional wholesale models in order to create a better experience for brands and customers alike.
In all these formats, there are a few consistent considerations to keep in mind, such as how much the undertaking will cost in both time and money, and what you'll gain in return, not just in the form of dollars and sales, but also awareness, data, and insights. Where Endear can be most impactful is on the data front. Whether you're operating a space in the short-term or making a longer-term investment, you can increase how quickly you see a return on your investment by leveraging the data you're collecting to keep customers coming back to you over and over again.