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Spring 2011 The Izba Pops into Mall of America

A museum gift shop uses a pop-up store to drive sales and visibility.

The pop-up model has proved to be such a success for The Izba, a museum gift shop, that it’s now considering moving up to a more permanent position at the Mall of America in Bloomington, MN.

The Izba landed a temporary home in the west wing of the 2.8-million-square-foot mall last October. Although its lease ran through the end of January, the retailer is currently negotiating with mall management to extend its stay. “We are looking to test this concept for about another year,” says Melanie Brooks, director for The Izba. Once they confirm their concept and sales potential is solid, they plan to go permanent—“at the end of January next year,” Brooks adds.

The pop-up store represents the first satellite location for The Izba, which originated as a gift shop within the Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis. The pop-up store serves a dual purpose for the museum. “We were seeking to bring that store to a broader audience. We also were very interested in promoting the museum from the standpoint of getting the name and information in front of a lot [more] people,” Brooks says.

The Izba has created a reputation as a leading source of artistic gifts from the Russian and Baltic region. It offers a variety of art books and unique artisan merchandise such as jewelry, original paintings, wood products, collectibles, and home furnishings.

The logistics

The Izba started its search for a satellite store looking at either a mall or airport location. “Because there are so many people from all over the world that come to the Mall of America, we determined that the mall would be an ideal first step for us in terms of branching out,” Brooks says. The Mall of America attracts 42 million visitors each year and 40 percent of all customers are tourists.

They looked at other options within the mall, including a permanent inline location. However, the inline store came with a 10-year lease. “That is a huge risk for a one-store operation,” Brooks says. In contrast, the pop-up was a four-month lease. Another advantage of its current pop-up location was that it required very little work, only a fresh coat of paint and the addition of some track lighting. So finally, The Izba signed the pop-up lease for a 1,900-square-foot space located on the first floor of the mall next to Nordstrom’s.

Future plans

The Izba has been very pleased with its success at the mall. Although Brooks declined to disclose specific sales figures, the mall store has reached 80 percent of its original sales goal, which Brooks admits was a very aggressive number. “We feel successful in terms of the visitors and the products they purchased, and the interest they have expressed in the museum—that has been very encouraging,” Brooks says.

It is difficult to predict what a new target customer group will purchase, but so far customers at the mall store have bought very similar items compared to the museum store. For example, jewelry sales are one of the top sellers at both stores, representing 19 percent of sales at the mall location and about 22 percent at the museum.

In the future, Brooks would prefer a move to a space on the first or second level at the center of the mall. “There is a lot of traffic that flows around the main center of the mall. That would be our ideal, dream location,” she adds. The Izba also is eyeing additional pop-up stores in other locations around the country. “We certainly wouldn’t want to saturate the Twin Cities with more stores, but we would consider opening stores in other cities or other markets,” she adds.

Beth Mattson-Teig

Beth Mattson-Teig is a freelance business writer based in Minneapolis, Minn. She specializes in covering the national commercial real estate industry.

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