Temporary stores help to test the water for new lines, brands
Established stores are using 'pop-up' locations to raise interest and save money.
NEW YORK (AP) -- The Chris Madden showroom that opened recently in Rockefeller Center won't be in business for long, but that's OK -- that's exactly what J.C. Penney Co., which operates the store, has planned.
Penney is one of a growing number of merchants opening what the retail industry calls pop-up stores, temporary locations that allow a company to test new brands and markets without a huge financial commitment. Consumers are already familiar with stores that sell holiday merchandise, opening in the fall and then closing around New Year's; stores like Penney's Chris Madden venture represent a new marketing tool for retailers.
"This is a trend that is just beginning to develop," according to Karl Bjornson, senior manager at Kurt Salmon Associates, a retail consulting company. "And it's going to continue as retailers look for new opportunities to test new markets and do it in a way that is not costly."
What's out there
Last fall, Target, which has been flirting with the idea of opening its first store in Manhattan, had a successful pop-up store featuring its new collection of Isaac Mizrahi fashions. At the end of this month, the discounter plans to open a temporary location that will sell clothing and home accessories under different brands on Long Island.
At Penney's store featuring its new home furnishings brand, Chris Madden, consumers can place orders for merchandise such as furniture and bedding. The retailer is also considering a pop-up store or showroom in Los Angeles that will sell women's and men's clothing, according to Michael Cape, vice president of brand marketing at Penney.
Meanwhile, The Calendar Club LLC, a division of Barnes & amp; Noble Inc. that operates seasonal stores, has 21 temporary stores under Go! The Game Store, which sells the latest board games and puzzles, in the nation's malls.
The airline industry has also discovered the benefits of pop-ups. Delta Air Lines has operated temporary stores in downtown Manhattan and Boston to acquaint travelers with its new low-fare service, Song, and is considering other locations.
"It really helped build awareness that Song is a different brand," said Joanne Smith, vice president of marketing and customer service for Song.
For Penney, opening the showroom featuring home furnishings from Chris Madden, an up-and-coming home-decorating maven, was a way to reach out to the "influencers," those consumers who set the pace for trends, according to Cape. Penney's does not operate a store in Manhattan.
The Chris Madden brand marks Penney's biggest home-furnishings launch in terms of the number of products and its television and print advertising investment, according to Cape. There are about 1,700 types of products in the collection.
At the 2,500-square-foot showroom, located at Rockefeller Center, there are various home-furnishings vignettes from adventurous themes such as zebra-print bedding to romantic-inspired bedroom quilts and furniture.
The showroom also features a list of Penney's stores where customers can find the full furniture collections.
Already, the showroom has been able to convert browsers into buyers.
"When you think of J.C. Penney, you think of traditional," said Virla Hill of Valley Stream, N.Y., who in the past limited her purchases at Penney to casual clothing. But that perception has changed, once she checked out the designs. Hill spotted a $1,099 chenille sofa at the showroom and planned to buy it.
As Penney's Cape said: "We are still testing new ground on what this can deliver for us."