Why 2023 must be the year of the pop-up in travel retail

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An idea popped into my head last year and it is one which I believe should be a guiding light for travel retail over the next 12 months: Let us make 2023 the year of the pop-up in this market.

I have long been among those calling for a new look at how we use space in this market. We need to move away from bland multi-brand stores which say nothing about the brands they feature or the locations they are in – and stifle the opportunity to introduce new brands and concepts.

We need to make the long overdue move outside the box of four walls which have constrained creativity in much of travel retail for too long. Pop-ups are a catalyst for innovation a newness. The temporary nature of them means that both brands and landlords can trial new concepts and products, which create real novelty for shoppers, without threatening the sales in other stores, where established brands often dominate to ensure a return in sales.

20partners Kiehls_GDF_Plaza_2 Why 2023 must be the year of the pop-up in travel retail Journal  travel retail

Creating exciting experiences is a key focus for travel retail in 2023 as the market looks to continue creating a unique marketplace to secure its place in a changing retail ecosystem. We also need to finally address how space is used in airports – so much of the are passengers pass through is ‘dead’, with nothing to engage or entertain, while brands scrap for attention in limited and often uninspiring areas.

We can change that and solve both issues with a real focus on pop-up stores. A well-deployed pop-up creates incremental income for airports by offering something fresh and new in an empty area, which could blossom into a real sales driver. They also deliver better return on sales per sqm than many stores. What is not to like?

The past 12 months have showcased how a well-imagined and well-delivered pop-up can be something truly special for both brands, retailers and shoppers. They generate buzz and engagement, while driving footfall and inspiring shoppers who are then in the mood to be explore further.

A glance at the recent Best of 2022 list from Shop Drop Daily is a smorgasbord of the possibilities and excitement delivered by pop-up stores last year. Even recent travel retail offerings from Kiehl’s in Hainan or Lancome in Europe show how a real brand experience can be brought to life in a travel retail pop-up.

20partners Jimmy-Choo-PU Why 2023 must be the year of the pop-up in travel retail Journal  travel retail

This is the power of pop-ups. They are a living embodiment of the brand, delivering a moment for shoppers in the way that only brands can. This is what consumers are looking for. Moving away from simple transactional analytics, we must look to how shoppers are engaged or enthralled by retail spaces.

Simply put, where pop-ups are allowed the space and creativity to deliver a brand experience, they enhance every aspect of the retail ecosystem.

This is something landlord must fully consider. The transient and temporary nature of pop-ups makes them a great way to trial fresh concepts in ignored spaces, without impacting the sales in key retail locations. Pop-up stores are certainly attention-grabbing, when done properly; they can create differentiation from airport-to-airport and journey-to-journey with a unique, brand-led experience for consumers. What more could we want?

Next time you walk through an airport, as I often do, ask yourself: “Would an exciting pop-up improve this space?”

The answer will be yes. Now, let’s make it happen.