Consumer Watch: Shops pop up to practise

By Susan Edmunds

Bargain hunters miss out as sales racks give way to product-testing

Siddhi Smith's pop-up store, Encore, is in Newmarket. Photo / Doug Sherring
Siddhi Smith's pop-up store, Encore, is in Newmarket. Photo / Doug Sherring

If you expect a bargain from pop-up shops, you might be out of luck. Pop-up shops have become popular over recent years, particularly around Christmas as retailers cash in on people looking to spend.

They work well because they give customers the idea that they must act quickly before the shop disappears.

But retail experts say more shop owners are now using pop-up shops to test a product rather than to get rid of stock cheaply.

Siddhi Smith, who owns second-hand designer fashion store Encore, based in the Three Lamps area of Ponsonby, said she opened her Newmarket pop-up shop partly to show a potential landlord what another Encore shop might look like. She wants to stay in Three Lamps but is looking for larger premises.

It was only because she was in the right place at the right time that she was able to secure the location for her pop-up shop in the Rialto centre. "Not many landlords want a short-term rental, even if their premises are sitting empty," she said.

"I was starting to get frustrated but I happened to be there on the day of the liquidation ... and the receivers said the landlord might be open to something short-term."

Smith said pop-up shops gave consumers an opportunity to find a product they would not get in a normal store, and were a good way for retailers to turn over stock. She frequently moves stock between her Ponsonby shop and the Newmarket outlet to keep the ranges fresh. Stock is not cheaper in the pop-up shop.

"It showcases products. It can only be great for consumers - they can touch and feel things as opposed to buying online."

She had noticed fashion designers from outside Auckland opening pop-up shops in Ponsonby to test the response to their products.

John Albertson, of the Retailers Association, said that was common: "They might take one for two or three months because the commitment to a long-term lease is quite expensive. It's a way to try an area out."

He said they sometimes annoyed other retailers in the area, who were usually paying more in rent.

Shopper Hannah Blake said she picked up some good deals at an Auckland pop-up of the Tauranga label Repertoire, although much of the stock was selling at normal price. "A pop-up that had no sale rack would be boring. I love a bargain."

Kellie Watkinson said pop-ups should make it clear if it wasn't a "sale kind of store".

Bradley Quin said the specials could be for less appealing products. "You go along expecting a bargain on D&G [fragrance]. Turns out D&G has 2 per cent off and the big 40 per cent advertised sale is for David Beckham. I expect bargains but am continually disappointed."

Massey University retail expert Andrew Murphy said pop-up shops did well in malls, which were designed with space for kiosks. Rent was less than for a standard shop.

He said retailers would often use pop-up shops to create a buzz and customer interest in a brand. Fashion stores overseas would do it by regularly bringing out new ranges: "We don't have the same fast-fashion orientation. This is the closest approximation we get to that."

He said whether customers could get a good deal would vary. "They would expect either a bargain or something unique or unusual. Rarely do those go together."

- Herald on Sunday

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