It was a Los Angeles-based company inspired by Japanese shopping habits that brought pop-up retail to America. During a trip to Tokyo in 1999, Russ Miller witnessed the lengths to which the city’s famously voracious consumers would go to buy rare and limited-edition products.
Mr. Miller brought that mind-set back to L.A. with Vacant, “a retail concept and exhibition store” that would open shops only to close them as soon as they ran out of goods.
Discount retailer Target once again positioned itself as the funky anti-Walmart when it took over a 220-foot-long boat at Chelsea Piers for a two-week stay on the Hudson River that coincided with Black Friday in November of 2002. Vacant arrived in New York in February 2003, working with Dr. Martens on a pop-up space at 43 Mercer Street.
Microsoft is cashing in on the critical, but fleeting, holiday shopping season with two ephemeral New York retail outlets. The software giant’s local pop-up stores opened Oct. 27 in Times Square and at The Shops at Columbus Circle, and purport to ease seasonal shopping anxiety with a “curated” selection of the company’s best products.
But the holiday stores’ marquee piece will be Surface, the tablet that Microsoft shipped on the eve of the pop-ups’ opening. By pushing Surface using the pop-up platform, Microsoft is hewing to one of the retail model’s key tenets since it landed in New York about a decade ago.
Initially a form of stealth advertising and a way for retailers to wade into the waters of unfamiliar markets, pop-ups now increasingly qualify as retail events that attract, rather than chase, consumers and help make established companies seem hip rather than lend legitimacy to upstarts.
“There are two reasons why pop-ups continue to be popular: retailers want to test markets in new neighborhoods or, in Microsoft’s case, want to test new concepts,” said Faith Hope Consolo, chairwoman of the retail leasing and sales division at Douglas Elliman, who was not involved with Microsoft’s seasonal shops.