If you’re a mall or shopping center, the last thing you want is an empty storefront. If you’re a small retailer or entrepreneur, the last thing you want is being unable to get your product into the hands of customers. Houston-based tech start-up PopUp Shops has a solution: Its Match.com-esque system connects those retailers with property managers who are looking to lease space for the short term.
Launched in the Bayou City last year, the platform just made its nationwide debut, following an appearance at ICSC (the International Council of Shopping Centers) national conference in Las Vegas. “It’s exciting,” says Megan Silianoff, a partner in PopUp Shops, of the coast-to-coast expansion. “It’s proof our concept — and our hypothesis about it — works.”
Silianoff says that retail shopping as we know it is dying. Across the country, malls, and shopping centers have spaces sitting empty. Meanwhile, consumer purchase things online and have them delivered to their doors. That’s why PopUp Shops’ matchmaking concept works so well, she feels.
“Some rent is better than no rent,” she reasons, for landlords. “We’re a solution to get retailers into brick and mortar spaces, even if it is for the short term. It helps the retailer build awareness and excitement about their brand, and it creates foot traffic for the shopping center. It’s win-win.”
PopUp Shops’ website lists spaces available for rent and retailers can peruse the listings and lease space. Silianoff says the system is also a great way for a retailer to test out a market before deciding to have a permanent presence there. She’s quick to point out that pop-up stores aren’t necessarily new. During the holidays in the 1980s and 1990s, it wasn’t uncommon to see temporary stores selling Christmas décor or calendars in malls all over the U.S.
“My business partner Barry Goldware of Sun and Ski Sports likes to say the Romans probably had pop-up shops,” she jokes. “But what is new is the platform we’re using to connect landlords and retailers.”
And, while landlords and sellers connect to find business solutions that are mutually beneficial, Silianoff says that customers wishing to find out what’s happening and who’s in town will soon be able to go to the website and check out the calendar, which lists which stores are popping up where.
While the nationwide launch is still in its early days, Silianoff says she hopes someday to see it be like Craigslist. “You know how when you go there, there’s a drop-down of all the cities in the country? That’s what I’m envisioning for us. I really want us to revolutionize the shopping experience.”