Pop-up stores are... well, popping up

SINGAPORE - The pop-up store, a reinvention of the traditional brick-and-mortar shop, is now the go-to for shoppers looking for a different retail experience this festive season.

These temporary shops, which can be in shopping malls, offices and even hotel rooms, stay open for as short a period as a day to as long as six months.

They sell everything from books to clothing and have proliferated, said retail experts MyPaper spoke to.

Owner of Singapore-based fashion label Whole9Yards, Ms Widelia Liu, 26, opened her first pop-up store at restaurant House @ Dempsey last month.

Her aim was to expand the newly launched business' reach, she said, adding that the brand is currently sold only online.

"We're experimenting with different ideas, including retail and interior-design ideas," said Ms Liu, adding that the 10-day pop-up store was packed on launch day.

Publisher Epigram Books converted its office premises in Toa Payoh into a Christmas pop-up store earlier this month.

The two-day event, which featured new releases and discounts of up to 80 per cent, was well received, said its chief executive, Mr Edmund Wee, 61.

"As a publisher, it's not easy to be noticed in a major bookstore. Hopefully, the pop-up store helped introduce more people to our books," he said.

Multi-label boutique Retail Therapy also held a year-end Christmas pop-up sale, in a suite in Regent Hotel last week.

Co-founder Dora Wong told MyPaper that the business has become primarily a pop-up store since the closure of its two physical shops in Orchard in 2011.

"Rent was going up and the retail scene is changing," she explained. "Pop-up stores offer a less mundane shopping experience because they can be found in all sorts of locations, anytime."

Other recent pop-up ventures include that of local designer collective W.E. at Westgate in Jurong East and independent bookstore BooksActually, which is a vendor at the pop-up space Temporium in Little India.

Ms Sarah Lim, a senior retail-management lecturer at Singapore Polytechnic Business School, explained that the pop-up concept is going down well, especially with young entrepreneurs who can "test out their businesses" on a smaller scale.

"Most of the time, it's more affordable than getting a lease at a shopping mall," she said.

Comparing the pop-up store to a pushcart, another type of mobile retail space, Ms Lim said the former looks "more professional and inviting".

Landlords stand to gain as well, pointed out Dr Lynda Wee, an adjunct associate professor in retailing at Nanyang Technological University.

"If done well, pop-up stores can help turn a languishing mall around, or reposition or rejuvenate an otherwise-boring area," she said, adding that rental rates could rise as a result.

Consumers, for their part, will continue to hunt down such stores because they offer emotional satisfaction - surprise and spontaneity -where shopping is concerned, said Dr Wee.

For business-development executive Mary Chen, 24, the exclusive discounts offered by some pop-ups are the biggest perk.

Citing a Korean skincare pop-up sale she visited near her former workplace in the Central Business District late last month, Ms Chen said that the products sold were "much cheaper" than those sold in physical stores.

"I didn't know about the store until the day it 'popped up', but it was a really pleasant surprise," she added.

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