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Here today, gone tomorrow: Retailers pop up for back-to-school


By Madeline Will

Reuters

Temporary stores, a money-making staple during the Halloween and Christmas seasons, are going back to school.

A growing number of retailers, including Target Corp, JanSport and Toys R Us Inc, are popping up this summer in neighborhoods, malls and college campuses across the United States to sell notebooks, clothes, bed sheets and other supplies as students prepare for a new school year.

These pop-ups typically open in empty storefronts and sell smaller selections of popular items. They are a good way for retailers to increase shopping options during busy periods, test locations and promote their brand, retail experts say.

“Merchants today are looking for a way to differentiate themselves,” said Christina Norsig, chief executive officer of Pop-Up Insider, which connects retailers to potential pop-up spaces.

The number of pop-up stores in the United States has jumped 16 percent to 2,380 in 2012 from 2,043 in 2009, according to data from industry research firm IBIS World. But pop-ups are still largely untracked, with no data available on their sales or revenue.

Retailers can save up to 80 percent by opening a pop-up instead of a traditional retail store, according to Storefront, a company that also connects pop-ups with real estate.

With a national retail vacancy rate of about 10 percent, landlords are usually willing to let retailers sign a shorter and sometimes cheaper lease, said Storefront Chief Operating Officer Tristan Pollock.

Target says its pop-up glass dorm room would visit five universities when students head to school in August and September. Shoppers can purchase the bedding and accessories showcased in the room by scanning barcodes on the wall with their phones.

Toys R Us opened pop-up Express stores during the holidays since 2009. The temporary stores have done extremely well, spokeswoman Alyssa Peera said, leading Toys R Us to open pop-ups for other shopping seasons, including back-to-school.

Many other small retailers and large chains are popping up for back-to-school in family-friendly neighborhoods or on college campuses.

That is the strategy for Bed, Bath and Beyond, which opens pop-up stores selling dorm room essentials near or on college campuses in time for students to go back to school.

“The name of the game is about making it easier for the consumer,” said Kurt Salmon retail strategist Megan Donadio. “By having these pop-ups, it’s easier to make yourself more accessible to the consumer.”


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