Fast and Furious Retailing

 | August 20,2012 11:20 am IST

Music can be downloaded or bought from your nearest music shop and listened in the best of music systems and yet nothing can match the experience of being there in a live performance by your favourite artiste, grooving with hundreds to the blaring speakers. No matter how much you love that RX 100 bike, yet you would let go of an opportunity to feel a Hayabusa.

Even the most loving girl friend can never stop a guy from checking out that new Mercedes model being displayed in your nearest mall and neither can your handsome boyfriend or doting husband stop you from checking out that new Lakme gloss. Such is the power of the touch and feel shopping regardless if its just to satisfy that burgeoning curiosity of a new or a special product.

Proof of how powerful this is in terms of business is evident when we look at the worlds largest public corporation in terms of revenue Walmart which incidentally is also the biggest private employer in the world. With over 100 million footfalls every week in just US, this shows the power of retail business and an indicator of the volumes which has left Amazon and E-Bay gazing into the void promises of the internet. However, in the age on instant gratification where 15 minutes of fame is all that you need and sadly is all what you get ask our Prime Minister that, it is evident that the environment is not going to be leaving retailing untouched. With in numerous flash mobs orchestrated every day, and with retention and attention grabbing gimmicks getting inflated in terms of their costs, time has seen the evolution of the concept of POP-UP Retail stores or otherwise known as Flash Retail.

Target, Kate Spade, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Collete, Samsung, E-Bay, Levi Strauss and last but not the least Apple these have been some of the big names who have been taking this concept and implementing it to successfully get a more than fair share of the consumers mind space. A pop up retail space is a venue that is temporary and plays host to different events over different periods. The Pop-up shop is nothing, but the springing up of a space that exposes the customer to a myriad of products or services for a short period and disappears off to another location or forth a new period. From gallery like shopping spaces to one-off exhibitionist themed flash stores, there has been an increase in temporary retail manifestations around the world.

Its the duration and the surprise factor that makes this concept a clincher. Making its appearance in 1999, it had its genesis in Vacant a Los Angeles based companys attempts to replicate a phenomenon where customers used to line up to buy a limited edition product, and the shop closing down once it was sold out, and then reappearing only for another assortment of similar niche products. This concept was largely promoted in US by Target Walmarts nearest competitor and now often referred as the king of Pop-up retail. With umpteenth such stores over the years, Target has created such stores selling exclusive Isaac Mizrahis new womens wear line of clothing to home accessories to the Pink Collection which was done to support the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

The concept even though looks a bit jaded coming into today, is sure to make a big comeback and is the best solution for small business owners, niche segment players, test new markets and revive old brands and most important to cut corners in terms of costs especially with the fad of austerity catching the fancy of countries left right and centre. Based on the primary psychological factor of human curiosity, any object with a surprise element or a limited exposure time is sure to catch the fancy of the customers. This has been one primary reason why Circuses and Operas and the street plays still continue to exist and songs like D K Bose and Why this Kolaveri become more than just another song and an anthem for months.

The next reason is the cost factor and with rising cost and inflation and contracting economies hitting the underbelly of almost all developed nations, this concept can help the brands continue the connect with the consumers minus the cost of a permanent store and staff. Testing out newer products, and giving customers a taste of whats in store at their permanent locations, such temporary stores yield significant footfalls. Any doubts about this can be safely cast aside when we look at the brands which have used this P & G and Apple have used this successfully in US, Australia and Canada and has been such a success, that it has warranted even Samsung to follow suit for its Galaxy SIII in UK.

Niche products will absolutely love this concept, thanks largely to the fact that not only would they be able to create the ambience supporting their product but would also be able to piquet enough customer experience to pursue the product range through alternate mediums like online or exclusive stores, thereby maintaining the margins and exclusivity.

Couple these fundamental reasons with the reach of social media and location based services, Google and Facebook are sure to push this strategy further with their respective ads and context based services, making sure customers have their fair bit of surprise as well as driving the initiative for their marketing partners. Initiative by E-Bay whereby a set of interior designers were supposed to furnish a New York penthouse using stuff obtained from E-Bay only was an attempt of branding E-Bay from a mere electronic flea house to a fully fledged youthful modern retailer.

India has had its share of such stores but has never been considered under the purview of Pop-Up marketing. Ice creams have always been sold in mobile vehicles in cities and towns for forever ages that we remember and it has been that uncertainty in the availability of ice creams that had driven sales even without any huge marketing extravagance before Kwality Walls decided to redefine Ice cream segment. There have been umpteenth saree sales that happen for a period of a month bringing in hordes of customers, when big stores fail to attract a fraction of the same through the year. Lakme has been a pioneer of the Pop-up retail culture in India, with in numerous such stores in leading malls marking the launch of new cosmetics and products and creating enough buzz for the customers to create the first burst of buyers. Sony, Nokia, Lipton, Maruti, Mercedes Benz are other leading brands which have explored this option to good advantage in driving home the customer interaction for newly introduced products. FlipKart and niche product makers like Chumbak amongst others can gain a lot of traction for their services and products by using this concept especially in the Tier 2 and Tier 3 regions to drive home their range of products as well as promote the sense of belief in online shops which has been the primary factor for lack of interest and growth in e-commerce in India against the projections. Coupled with Facebook and other social media campaigns such stores can be a major boost for the customer acquisition needs of online stores albeit at much lower cost when compared to the ad campaigns on television and other media.