Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Temporary stores, now popping up near you

In recent years, some retailers seeking to drum up short-term buzz and excitement have turned to so-called pop-up stores - temporary retail outlets meant to bring products to areas where they might not be sold otherwise. Target has tried them in Manhattan, where it currently has no permanent locations, and they're also common for Halloween stores. Now some local retailers are giving the concept a whirl, too. It's arguably become easier to do this year, with more vacant space available because of the recession.

Charlotte Center City Partners, for instance, turned the former Grand Central deli and nightclub space at 101 N. Tryon St. (next to Starbucks) into a holiday market called Twelve. Named for the total number of days it will run, the market launched earlier this month and will wrap up Saturday, operating from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. It's offering mostly locally produced crafts, foods and other seasonally appropriate items, including a wreath bar, chocolates, jewelry, arts, cookies, honey, shirts, dinnerware, stationery, soaps and candles, with an average of eight vendors there each day.

Another seasonal pop-up is the Jewelry Artists of Charlotte boutique in the former Lions Jewelers space at Ballantyne Village, which opened in November and will operate until Dec. 31. The owner of the neighboring I.C. London shop set it up to spotlight local jewelry designers, with an eye toward selling distinctive holiday gifts.

Ted Boyd, Center City Partners' program director, learned about pop-up retail when he attended a conference about public markets in New York earlier this fall. He returned to Charlotte inspired to bring the idea here. The holiday market idea came together in about two weeks, he said, with the property managers of the Grand Central space agreeing to make it available at a minimal rate, just to cover upkeep. Boyd then spoke to vendors -
several of whom also participate in the market held during the summer at Trade and Tryon - and convinced them to give it a try. Vendors pay $10 a day, and received a 10 percent discount if they paid in advance, Boyd said.

After tidying up the former restaurant and bar - and figuring out how to display merchandise in such a setting - the market opened, and vendors are now selling their products at a time when they might not have any other place to sell them otherwise. Twelve is also bringing street-level retail to a stretch that doesn't have much of it otherwise. Traffic has been encouraging, Boyd said, with curious browsers coming even on Saturdays. "By limiting ourselves to just operating for 12 days, it allows these local vendors to be able to not have a significant amount of overhead, to be able to test the market," Boyd said. His hope? That Twelve will help spur demand for more shopping downtown - or at the very least, provide a little pop.