The COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic impact on the retail industry with some businesses having to close their doors permanently.
But the ongoing health crisis has also provided opportunities for other retailers to kick open the doors and enter the marketplace – and some have been using the concept of pop-ups to do that.
“While the permanent-temporary nature of the physical shopping experience 3.0 is a bit of an oxymoron, this creative re-imagining of our spaces has allowed us to bring marketing and activation out of the shadows of operations.”
“Not only are these types of retail solutions vital to our centres, they’re critical to our tenant’s success and help to further define our role within our community as more than just places to shop.”
Melissa Evans, Vice President, Retail, National Marketing, with the QuadReal Property Group, said the biggest benefit of pop-ups for both retailers and mall owners is that it allows for a courtship period during which time each party can figure out if a longer-term marriage is going to work.
“Obviously from the tenant’s perspective, there’s lots of benefits to this arrangement whether it’s the ability to test-drive the location, introduce their brand to a new audience, connect face-to-face with customers and of course, experiment with lower risk and financial commitment. On our end, we’re keen to incubate unique tenants with long term potential, as well as surprise and delight our customers by offering something new and exciting,” she said.
“Our philosophy is really to ‘incubate, activate, innovate and animate’. When we think of temporary retail solutions, we’re thinking in terms of five types: marketing-driven pop-ups, marketing and leasing hybrid pop-ups, temporary leasing deals, community uses and other creative uses of spaces.
“Experimentation on the part of the tenant and incubation on the landlord’s side is going to continue to be a huge trend going forward, as will the need for flexibility and creativity. Notwithstanding the changing nature of our industry, customers are extremely savvy which together is really a giant wake up call for the whole industry. To really understand the assignment means reaching a lot higher to fill these spaces than what was acceptable in the past. There’s filling a space and then there’s filling the space with the right use in a way that contributes to the overall leasing strategy and brand storytelling efforts.”
From a marketing-driven pop-up perspective, these are typically more event-style, extremely photogenic and buzzy, explained Evans. Candyland at Bayview Village Shopping Centre is an example of this, working with NYC artist Robyn Blair, “the ultimate and sweetest Instagrammable moment vis-à-vis a candy-themed art gallery moment’ has been created.
She said the month-long “I do, I do, I do” wedding-themed pop-up also at Bayview Village Shopping Centre was another example where, in partnership with Weddingbells magazine, a series of thematic events took place in an empty CRU that had been reconfigured to include a Wedding Chapel for wedding-themed fashion shows, a Gifted Boutique with suggestive gift-giving ideas, a Matrimonial Kitchen for couples cooking classes, etc.
“Marketing and leasing hybrid pop-ups are joint forces initiatives whereby marketing really sets the table from a presentation and storytelling perspective while leasing (and sometimes the Operations team) curates the vendor lineup. The Great Indoors Market at Bower Place is the perfect example of this whereby a portion of the former Sears box was transformed into a month-long holiday-themed marketplace featuring 14 external vendors in a Winter Wonderland-type setting. Several of those vendors have now graduated to their own temporary locations within the shopping centre.
“Temporary leasing deals are obviously the most common in our industry, however we want to make sure what we’re offering goes way beyond ‘common’. The incoming tenant isn’t just filling a void for us, they become part of our storytelling so brand fit and presentation is critical. Second Nature Boutique, which is a high-end designer consignment store at Bayview Village Shopping Centre, not only dovetails with the existing merchandising mix, it looks like it’s a permanent store. In short, if we’re going to do this, we want to ensure we do it well and there isn’t this disconnect for our customers.
“Over at Willowbrook Shopping Centre, Willow Way, which is the pop-up space just outside Hudson’s Bay, allows for a constant rotation of local artisans and vendors in a turnkey setup. Right now, we’re test-driving a number of retail uses including Lee’s Donuts, aka the OG of the Vancouver donut scene.”
Community use is also a way to give back to the community where the shopping centre owner can. For example, it devoted over 20,000 square feet at Cloverdale Mall for a vaccination clinic to assist with the City of Toronto’s vaccination efforts. Also at Cloverdale, the mall participated in ArtworxTO, the City’s year-long public art project, with about 4,000 square feet now housing an exhibition curated by local artist Claudia Arana.
“Last, but not least, we like to think about other ways in which we can creatively use our spaces, the emphasis being on out-of-the-box thinking and ways in which we can spark joy for our customers. At Westshore Town Centre, we joined forces with Incredible Closets to create a merchandising space that promoted their closet system while showcasing seasonal must-haves from our tenants. At Capilano Mall, the hoarding wall became the canvas for an augmented reality art installation,” added Evans.
International luxury lifestyle brand ALPAKA, founded in 2007 in Estonia, has seen the benefits and potential of using the pop-up concept as it currently has one at Bayview Village until mid-January.
The company has its flagship store at CF Pointe Claire, with stores also at CF Sherway Gardens and CF Laval.
Are Kudeviita, one of the retailer’s founders, said Bayview is one of the top malls in Toronto and the company saw much potential in the area.
“This kind of brand was needed in Bayview and people really love our products and they go out from our store with only smiles on their faces. They’re really happy,” he said.
“We are looking to get something more permanent for Bayview and Yorkdale and also Ottawa at (CF) Rideau Centre because the pop-up shops we use as we always have in mind the possibility to make it long term. We want to select the good malls that are good for us.
“We’re also looking at Vancouver maybe for next year. We are interested in expanding in Canada but doing it step by step. But because of the COVID we have to make new plans. We grew from three shops last year to six shops this year plus we have the new cooperation agreement with Hudson’s Bay so we have four locations also with them with the shop in shop. The Bay shops are in Laval in Montreal, Pointe Claire in Montreal, then we have Quebec City St. Bruno and then we have Ottawa across the Rideau Centre.”