Full Steam Ahead
Pop-up opportunities are not just for the shopping center industry any more. City municipalities have also realized they can activate dormant areas of their towns with such temp leasing programs.
Case in point: Atlanta. The city’s new streetcar rail connects The King Center to Centennial Park so tourists and locals can easily navigate downtown. Unfortunately, the route travels through parts that have had many vacant storefront spaces. To help revitalize these spaces in the historic Sweet Auburn District, Central Atlanta Progress working with the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District (CAP & ADID) put together the Pop Up Shops—Spend the Summer Shopping Downtown program. CAP worked with the building owners to clean up the vacant spaces at the landlord’s cost and had them agree to lease the vacant spaces free of charge to pop-up tenants for three months. Each tenant was also given a $500 grant from CAP for visual merchandising. Tenants are required to have all applicable city/county/state licenses, liability insurance, and pay for utilities. They have to be open a set number of hours and days every week.
CAP worked with a local public relations company, Caren West PR, and Creative Loafing, a local weekly events newspaper, to get the word out. According to Kristi Rooks, Senior Project Manager, Economic Development with CAP, “the search went viral through social media and more than 100 businesses applied for the opportunity.” A committee of downtown professionals selected a dozen businesses to initially participate. Of these 12, many have thriving online businesses.
Quianah Upton, the owner of Arbitrary Living one of the pop-up shops along the streetcar line has had an online store for two years prior to opening her pop-up shop. The home décor store curates and creates vintage and unique housewares.
According to Futhum Tewolde and Stefan Lewinger, the co-owners of Sock Fancy, a monthly sock subscription service that sends customers awesome random socks every month, the jump from e-commerce to a brick-and-mortar store was a quantum leap. While it has been a challenge for these entrepreneurs to create a retail store from scratch, the pop-up shop was a great opportunity to test out a model to see if a retail store concept could work. It also allowed them to have more square footage for office and distribution space under one roof.
Modern Tribe, another special pop-up shop in the program, is a new kind of Jewish gift shop and Judaica store for people with innovative minds, spirits, and style. The company has been in business for seven years with an e-commerce store, and has had a previous pop-up shop location in Atlanta. Devoted online customers are also very excited to have the opportunity to peruse the inventory in person.
CAP continues to promote the pop-up shops by hosting public events, promoted through social media, to get the shopping public to check out the shops. They have provided branded shopping bags to all the merchants. Large beautiful flowerpots decorate each storefront, so customers can easily locate participants. The pop-up shop merchants also meet weekly to discuss how their businesses are doing and how they can work together to ensure success and drive traffic.
The benefit to the city—landlords and retailers alike—is exposing people to new retail in an underutilized location and paving the way for redevelopment. Rooks believes that the success of this program also showcases that downtown is a viable retail market.