How re­tail gi­ants seized on pop-ups to woo mil­len­ni­als

The Beacon Herald - - BUSINESS - ALEK­SAN­DRA SA­GAN THE CANA­DIAN PRESS 519-272-7135,

VAN­COU­VER — To drum up ex­cite­ment around the launch of a credit card tar­get­ing the oft­pur­sued mil­len­nial de­mo­graphic, Amer­i­can Ex­press Canada tapped sev­eral star chefs last month to serve In­sta­gram-wor­thy plates at a restau­rant in Toronto that would launch and shut­ter within a week.

Be­fore Ja­panese cloth­ing re­tailer Uniqlo opened its first Van­cou­ver lo­ca­tion this month, it ran a shop with a twist for one day. The lo­ca­tion was stocked with flan­nel shirts, but em­ploy­ees asked Cana­di­ans to choose be­tween leav­ing with a free one or gift­ing it to a new­comer.

Later this month, Google will open a tem­po­rary dough­nut store in Toronto, pro­mot­ing its new smart speaker, the Google Home Mini, si­mul­ta­ne­ously.

While the pop-up shop may have started as a way for on­line re­tail­ers to stage a lower-risk ex­per­i­ment with a phys­i­cal pres­ence, the tem­po­rary store­front has mor­phed into a mar­ket­ing tool for es­tab­lished brands, of­ten ones that al­ready boast mul­ti­ple lo­ca­tions.

“It’s def­i­nitely a trend,” said Ta­mara Szames, a Cana­dian re­tail an­a­lyst for ap­parel and footwear with the NPD Group.

Even Ikea Canada, which op­er­ates a dozen stores in the coun­try, has cre­ated mul­ti­ple short-lived shops. In June, the Swedish re­tailer opened the Ikea Play Cafe in Toronto where shop­pers could sam­ple meat­balls, play a gi­ant pinball ma­chine and, of course, shop a small selec­tion of the com­pany’s kitchen prod­ucts.

Pop-up shops backed by big cor­po­ra­tions now spring up like whacka-moles, and Szames thinks it’s “a very smart trend.”

Companies can change the con­ver­sa­tion with con­sumers and align brand mes­sag­ing, she said, point­ing to strug­gling depart­ment store chain Sears.

In April, Sears hosted a pop-up in a downtown Toronto neigh­bour­hood Vogue iden­ti­fied as the world’s sec­ond hippest in 2014. The trendy spot in­tended to woo mil­len­nial con­sumers with Sears’s new pri­vate la­bel brand as the com­pany at­tempted to re-in­vent it­self amid slug­gish sales.

That ex­pe­ri­ence could change the way a con­sumer views the com­pany and prompt them to ei­ther travel to one of their per­ma­nent stores to shop or to their on­line store, said Szames.

A tem­po­rary lo­ca­tion also lets es­tab­lished Cana­dian companies test new mar­kets in a vast coun­try or in­ter­na­tional re­tail­ers ex­per­i­ment with the Cana­dian con­sumer, she said.

Ja­panese-based Muji, for ex­am­ple, of­fered a pop-up shop in Van­cou­ver ear­lier this year and later opened a lo­ca­tion at Metropo­lis at Metro­town in nearby Burn­aby.

The method pro­vides ad­di­tional ben­e­fits for big brands whose prod­ucts are sold in other companies’ stores.

Nes­tle Canada, for ex­am­ple, hosted a smat­ter­ing of pop-up shops this past year. In Mon­treal, peo­ple could cus­tom­ize Delis­sio Rus­tico margherita piz­zas. In Toronto, passersby could sam­ple Haa­gen-Dazs ice-cream flights a la wine tast­ings and ice-cream cock­tails dur­ing happy hour. Later in the sum­mer, pedes­tri­ans could stop at a makeshift camp­ground and roast s’mores us­ing Aero choco­late.

The prac­tice al­lows the com­pany to de­velop an ex­pe­ri­ence for con­sumers they don’t get to in­ter­act with in stores, and re-in­vent a brand for new, younger de­mo­graph­ics, said Tracey Cooke, vice-pres­i­dent of com­mu­ni­ca­tion and mar­ket­ing ex­cel­lence at Nes­tle.

Three years after ce­ment­ing his rock star sta­tus by be­ing hon­oured as the world’s top mayor, Cal­gary’s Na­heed Nen­shi is at risk of los­ing his job in next week’s mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion, po­ten­tially pre­sag­ing the be­gin­ning of the end of Al­berta’s fling with pro­gres­sive politi­cians.

Cal­gar­i­ans are in a foul mood. Their city is strug­gling with high un­em­ploy­ment, heaps of va­cant downtown of­fice space due to oil­patch lay­offs that has pushed the mu­nic­i­pal tax bur­den to re­main­ing busi­nesses, and a string of devastating en­ergy pro­ject can­cel­la­tions that are lim­it­ing fu­ture op­por­tu­ni­ties — in­clud­ing the En­ergy East pipe­line last week.

They’ve had it with anti-busi­ness gov­ern­ments, and Nen­shi just hap­pens to be the first politi­cian up for re-elec­tion. He’s seen as run­ning a fat and in­ef­fi­cient city hall that, like its se­nior gov­ern­ment coun­ter­parts, raises taxes and spends with­out re­straint. The big ideas and high ideals Nen­shi — the first Mus­lim mayor of a large North Amer­i­can city — stood for in boom­ing times aren’t so vi­tal when ev­ery­one is tight­en­ing their belt.

Ac­cord­ing to a Main­stream Re­search /Post­media poll, re­leased Fri­day, the gap be­tween new­comer Bill Smith and Nen­shi for the Oct. 16 vote is widen­ing, with the mayor now trail­ing by 17 points. Smith had the sup­port of 48 per cent of 1,500 Cal­gar­i­ans polled Oct. 3 and 4, while Nen­shi had 31 per cent.

Though skep­ti­cal Nen­shi is on his way out, Duane Bratt, chair of the depart­ment of eco­nomics, jus­tice and pol­icy stud­ies at Mount Royal Univer­sity, said the mayor is in a tough fight. He be­lieves Cal­gary’s race is a preview of the 2019 pro­vin­cial elec­tion.

That’s when Rachel Not­ley’s NDP gov­ern­ment will be fight­ing Al­berta’s re-in­vig­o­rated con­ser­va­tives, which re-united un­der the United Con­ser­va­tive Party.

“Cal­gary will be the bat­tle ground in that race,” Bratt said. “With the Con­ser­va­tives out of power both fed­er­ally and provin­cially, there are a lot of vol­un­teers, donors, party mem­bers who are work­ing on Bill Smith’s cam­paign. If they are able to un­seat an in­cum­bent and pre­vi­ously very pop­u­lar mayor it would be a real sign of where the 2019 elec­tion is headed.”

Smith is a smooth-talk­ing lawyer and­formerPro­gres­siveCon­ser­va­tive party pres­i­dent who’s short on de­tails but chan­nelling the busi­ness com­mu­nity’s frus­tra­tions with Nen­shi, who has ruf­fled more than a few feath­ers among the elite, in­clud­ing the own­ers of the Cal­gary Flames.

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