Christina Norsig had her own niche business when she discovered a new niche to work with.
Norsig was a successful marketer with Rosenthal USA and Oneida in New York when she decided to open a temporary store selling china, glass and silver. Her first pop-up store was in a vacant space inside a New York deli.
Eventually, she opened eight such stores, and then realized that there was a business model to be created for someone to serve as a go-between for building owners with vacant storefronts and new retailers needing a place to show and test their wares.
Out of that realization came PopUpInsider, the New York company Norsig runs with her business partner, real estate expert Eric Michael Anton, to fill vacant store space with new, exciting but temporary (at least initially) tenants.
With a website and book “PopUp Retail: How You Can Master This Global Marketing Phenomenon”, Norsig entered a market that is, by definition, temporary.
“People asked me “Why would you attempt to build a business that is a fad or trend?’’ Norsig told Millionaire Corner. “But I realized it wasn’t a fad; it’s a total shift in the retail marketplace. And it is here to stay, and mutate, and take different forms.”
As cited on PopUpInsider.com “pop-up shops offer a creative solution for landlords and brokers seeking to reinvigorate their properties and create cash flow, while providing retailers with an effective means to quickly jumpstart their sales, marketing and branding efforts.”
Pop-ups are popular today because there is a glut of vacant retail space. When America went mall-crazy in the 1980s, it spent 20 years building huge, elaborate shopping malls, some which became little towns unto themselves. As malls aged, and American shopping habits changed to a more urbanized approach, malls found themselves with space to fill.
At one point, the retail vacancy rate was at 13 percent in New York and 12 percent in Chicago, remarkably high percentages in both cities. Something was needed to fill the empty storefronts.
“Landlords abhor a vacuum,’’ Norsig wrote in her book. “An empty space is not just a lack of rental income coming in; it’s a big fat flashing sign that the property is distressed. Landlords are all about image and so the idea that their reputation may be suffering a hit is insufferable. That’s why pop-ups became such an appealing alternative.”
At the same time, the independent merchant business increased as the Internet changed the shopping habits of Americans. As smaller retailers found a foothold on the Internet, they looked for ways to expand their business and realized there was vacant retail space available nearby.
Bucketfeet, a Chicago-based company that offers artist-designed sneakers, moved into its first brick-and-mortar location in downtown Chicago in October. On its first Sunday of business, it sold more shoes in store than it did on its website.
So Norsig has found a new transaction in the real estate marketplace, bringing a landlord and a retailer together to fill a vacant space. But the relationship does not end there. It requires a third party: the consumer.
Attracting consumers into a pop-up store is a trick, when so much of American consumerism comes from identifiable brands and familiar store designs.
“With today’s consumer, it is hard to grab their attention,’’ Norsig said. “There is a bank on every corner, a Starbucks on every corner. And there is a pretty specific, large homogenization of retail.
“You have people on their cellphones, texting, weaving in and out of a bunch of things. How do you get the consumer to pay attention? Pop-ups do that because they are different. It makes people want to pop their head in and see what is going on.”
And because pop-up stores are usually small, it does not take long to figure out what you are getting into, and what you might get out of it.
“It’s a perfect balance between curiosity and speed,’’ Norsig said.
Pop-ups are not limited to entrepreneurs. Big market companies, including Target, will use a pop-up location as a beta test to see how a new product or line of products will sell.
In 2002, Target set up a Christmas pop-up store in Times Square in New York City. There was no Manhattan Target to go to, and the retailer made a splashy move into a new market with a single-purpose store that still carried the incredibly familiar brand and logo.
Crate and Barrel just opened a short term space in the Town Square Las Vegas mall.
Pop-ups are an alternative to kiosks, which most American malls have filling the corridors with artwork, crafts and electronics. Kiosks have obvious space limitations that prevent retailers from displaying a full array of wares.
“You can only do so much in a kiosk,’’ Norsig said.
Pop-ups will remain a niche market because of a couple of limitations, Norsig said.
“Nobody wants 20 pop-up stores confusing the customers,’’ Norsig said. “Also, not everyone should open up a store. I can tell if they should or shouldn’t.”
PopUpInsider also offers guidance to a new store owner on creating and setting up a new space, as well as necessary paperwork issues like labor and insurance needs.
Kent McDill is a staff writer for Millionaire Corner. McDill spent 30 years as a sports writer, working for United Press International and the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. From 1988-1999, he covered the Chicago Bulls for the Daily Herald, traveling with them every day through the nine-month season. He also covered the Bulls for UPI from 1985-88, and currently covers the team for www.nba.com. He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title “100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die’, published by Triumph Books. In August 2013, his new book “100 Things Bears Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die” gets published.
In 2008, he resigned from the Herald and became a freelance writer. The Herald hired him to write business features and speeches for the Daily Herald Business Conferences and Awards presentations.
McDill also writes a monthly parenting column for the Herald’s Suburban Parent magazine.
McDill is the father of four children, and an active fan of soccer, Jimmy Buffett and all things Disney.