By Renee Francoeur
They suddenly take up residence in stands down at the ByWard Market, in small alcoves on the street, and they can even be found scattered in those rare pockets of empty space throughout bustling shopping centres.
Temporary “pop-up” stores are becoming more and more visible in the Ottawa area.
And this isn’t just in reference to those big-box Halloween outlets that whirl into town for a month every year.
High-end businesses from the world of fashion retail are also experimenting with the pop-up concept.
Indochino, a five-year-old custom online menswear company based in Vancouver, has a clientele spanning 60 countries.
One year ago, it decided to try its hand at pop-up retail.
It had been something the exclusively online business had been pondering for some time, says Darren Hutchison, Indochino’s public relations and communications manager.
“With feedback from our customers, we found they were more than satisfied with the clothing but they still really missed engaging, interacting, touching, feeling and seeing the fabrics.”
Indochino’s first pop-ups took place in Vancouver and Calgary and did so well that the company has launched a new brand for them – the Traveling Tailor.
This past April, the Traveling Tailor hit Ottawa for four days, taking up a vacant space on Slater Street.
While Mr. Hutchison couldn’t provide exact customer numbers for the company’s appearance in Ottawa, he did mention the Traveling Tailor had approximately 2,000 appointments during the six days it was set up in San Francisco earlier this year.
“We and others like us are recognizing that we don’t just exist in online vacuums or e-commerce silos,” he says.
Attracting new customers is certainly one of the reasons Indochino plans to keep up with its Traveling Tailor endeavours.
“A lot of companies that do engage in pop-up stores around the country do so as a branding exercise to raise awareness about their company and products and create more positive relationships,” says Mr. Hutchison.
Pop-up retailing is also taking place within Ottawa malls.
Ivivva Athletica, a subsidiary of Lululemon Athletica Inc. that targets active young girls between the ages of six and 14, recently opened a pop-up store at Bayshore Shopping Centre in a temporarily vacant spot on the second floor.
According to an earlier interview with Bayshore general manager Denis Pelletier, Ivivva Athletica will be staying until January.
Likewise, Schad, a chic men’s and women’s fashion boutique chain in downtown Ottawa, opened up a temporary location in the Rideau Centre this fall.
However, these examples are not exactly “pop-up” retail, explains Cindy VanBuskirk, the shopping centre’s general manager.
Retailers such as Schad, which plans to stay at the mall until Jan. 15, are referred to as “temporary tenants,” and rent mall space on a month-to-month basis, says Ms. VanBuskirk.
“Pop-ups” tend to refer to retailers opening up shop for a very short and select amount of time – typically a week or two.
Space for temporary tenants in busy Ottawa malls is hard to come by, both Ms. VanBuskirk and Mr. Pelletier say. In fact, the Rideau Centre has been completely leased for many years, says Ms. VanBuskirk.
That said, a slew of current renovations has meant a reshuffling of Bayshore’s stores, with four temporary tenants in the mall for this year’s Christmas shopping season. There is usually only one such tenant, says Mr. Pelletier.
Similarly, due to Rideau Centre’s leasing and merchandising plan for the next two years, space came up and provided a subsequent opportunity for Schad to experience a mall environment without having to make a long-term commitment, says Ms. VanBuskirk.
“We don’t ask the temporary tenant to invest significant dollars in renovating space and they don’t have to commit to a five- or 10-year lease,” she says.
It’s an efficient way to test the waters.
Andre Schad, who along with his wife Chantal Biro independently owns and operates Schad, Schad Blü and shoe store WOLF & Zed on Sussex Drive, says he’s excited to bring some “local flavour” into the mall.
According to Mr. Schad, the temporary mall location has been a “win-win” so far.
“We generate good traffic in the mall, especially on the weekends, and it brings more exposure to our stores down on Sussex at the same time.”
Annually, the Rideau Centre sees about 22 million visitors each year, notes Ms. VanBuskirk.
It’s also more cost-friendly, especially for small independent retailers like Schad, to go in on a temporary basis.
Schad’s rent is a fraction of the cost – about two thirds, he says – at the Rideau Centre compared to the long-term retailers’ lease.
“Pop-ups are here to stay. People are very risk-adverse today and with long-term liabilities and rent, they’re excited about these short-term opportunities,” he says. “I see this as more and more of an ongoing trend.”