Pop-up retail is worth an estimated £2.3bn to the UK economy. And, infiltrating retail ecosystems, urban planning, economic development, and marketing strategies, the allure of the pop-up is set to continue. With select products and unique locations striking a chord with modern buyers seeking that all-important shopping “experience”.

What’s more, the lines between traditional retail and pop-ups are becoming blurred. Indeed, while the pop-up might be a great way for budding entrepreneurs to start a low-cost retail business; established retailers and previously online-only brands are also getting in on the act. Using the pop-up to test new locations and product lines, while generating high-impact brand awareness.

Take BOXPARK in London’s East End for example. With shipping containers hosting retailers such as Nike Running and Urbanears - and dozens of brand-sponsored events running each month - the “world’s first pop-up mall”, is proving hugely popular young urban shoppers.

Capitalising on the trend, earlier this year discount supermarket, Aldi celebrated the launch its online wine shop with a showcase series of wine-tasting events in their very own pop up at BOXPARK. Even charity retailer Oxfam is getting in on the act; with plans to set up shop at BOXPARK for one week at the end of October, selling donated clothing and accessories with a Halloween theme.

Why is the pop-up store becoming so popular?

Why are retailers investing in the pop-up store?

With the rise of online retailers, the importance of a physical presence, where people actively experience a brand has never been more important.


Pop-up stores create a buzz

Earlier this year, hundreds of fans flocked to a pop-up shop in Manhattan when Kanye West launched a three-day pop-up shop to sell his fashion and merchandise range. Sharing the location of the store on social media, fans and fashionistas queued to be the first in line when it opened. With “a touch of frenzy in the air” those at the front of the line even argued with each other, determined to be the very first person through the doors.


Pop-up stores deliver bang for buck

Offering a cheaper alternative to the flagship store, pop-ups provide retailers with a simple solution that keeps them looking relevant. And by providing an immersive brand experience, and reaching the largest target audience possible, most pop-up stores are minimal when it comes to design. This cost-effective approach delivers maximum impact in the shortest time possible.


Pop-ups let retailers take risks

Pop-up events allow retailers to take creative risks with a brand; even stepping outside of their typical business model. For example, well-known colour company Pantone has run a pop-up café in Monaco for the past two summers, selling a minimal menu branded with the company's signature colour swatches. While Pantone doesn’t appear to have any plans to branch into gastronomy, the eatery has become a massive hit on social media channels such as Instagram; resulting in a huge buzz and media interest.


Pantone Cafe

Pantone Cafe

Pop-ups are agile

Rather than spending all their time and budget creating ‘the perfect’ instore solution, designers can focus their efforts on testing a variety of smaller experiments, with modular retail display structures and lightboxes that can be reused time and time again. 


Inspirational pop-up stores

Here are some of our favourite  pop-ups from around the globe; all of which are delivering a more energetic and experimental shopping experience.


Bark & Co

In June this year e-commerce company Bark & Co created a pop-up shop in Manhattan, inviting dogs (accompanied by their owners of course!) to try out toys in the store.



Demonstrating that it’s okay to have a little fun with your target audience, reasonably priced retailer Fruit of the Loom, opened pop-up shop Früt. With the space designed to look like a chic lingerie store – with the prices inflated to match - shoppers were encouraged to touch and feel the fabric. Crucially, they were given no clues to the brand until they went to purchase a product.


The Period Shop

When student Sarah Michelson used Tumblr express her dream for a "period store", Kotex responded, creating a place in New York where women could seek comfort from the symptoms of PMS. The space featured comfy sofas to lounge around on, the ability to buy Kotex products, and a range of ice cream and comfort food. 

“We as a society have thousands of stores for random crap like shaving, containers, Crocs" but nothing for women that doesn't involve clothes, makeup and shoes. So she said: "I'm calling for a Period Store."

Sarah Michelson

By listening to what women want, and using them as a source of ideas, the Period Shop created a massive buzz for Kotex; while at the same time endearing it to its target audience.

Period Store


Pop-up store design

With 10% of retailers planning to open a pop-up store in the next five years, design is set to play a vital role when it comes to making sure such stores stand out from the crowd as they become more mainstream.

Here are some top tips for keeping relevant and grabbing attention:


Consider your target audience

Being all things to all people rarely works. So, when designing a pop-up shop, it’s crucial to establish what your ideal customer looks like. For example, a shop designed to appeal to hipsters could use exposed brick, filament bulbs, and vintage fonts (although retailers who adopt this aesthetic run the risk of looking like they're just copying everyone else; with faux authenticity unlikely to win hearts and minds). Ultimately, when it comes to the retail design, authenticity is key


Merge the on and offline worlds

With the pop-up model, the online and physical worlds regularly collide; with social media used to create buzz and a more personalised shopping experience. In fact, it’s no coincidence that the growth of pop-up stores has happened at the same time as the rise in social media; with Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter all playing a pivotal role when it comes to publicising events and generating interest.


Dare to be different

Pop-ups let you experiment with your brand. It’s much easier to take risks with a pop-up store than a traditional retail space and the inherent rigid constraints Consider unique locations and design to keep your brand fresh, and the imaginations of your customers satisfied.

While the pop-up can be minimal when it comes to look and feel, it doesn’t have to be. Many retailers are creating best-in-class temporary displays to stand out from the competition. 

And, once they know what works, these design solutions can be cost-engineered before being rolled out in more traditional stores. Delivering long-term value.


Experiment with lighting

Lighting helps to communicate a unique identity and elicit customer emotions. Bespoke Neon-like LED derivatives can be used to express individuality in pop-up spaces; maximising impact without the challenges of traditional neon.

Gails Bakery


Make it modular

The last thing you want with a pop-up is a rigid retail display. With ease of assembly, disassembly, and reassembly the name of the game, modular display structures offer a virtually endless amount of presentation options; limited only by the imagination of your designer.

Tom Dixon


Make it interactive

Textures such as wood, brick, concrete, and soft furnishings can also be used to appeal directly to the target audience; creating a hands-on feel in your pop-up. Nothing quite recreates the pleasure that comes from feeling and handling products before purchase.


In conclusion

Cultivating engaging brand experiences, pop-up stores create multi-sensory shopping experiences that combine aesthetic and interactive elements to make them a destination venue in their own right. Just as importantly, pop-ups give retailers the chance to test messages, products, etc. on real life customers, without committing to full rollouts.

At Unibox, we transform concepts and ideas into a technical reality. Collaborating with retailers and design agencies we create attractive, engaging retail displays and environments that sell products more effectively. To find out more about how we can help you, contact us today for an informal chat.