While e-commerce gained traction prior to 2020, the pandemic accelerated the trend, with AusPost reporting 41% year-over-year growth in online purchases in 2020. As a result, the “bricks and clicks” trend, where retailers use a combination of online and brick-and-mortar retail locations, has grown in popularity.

While “clicks” are accessible to many small business owners, the “bricks” component remains inaccessible for many small businesses and emerging brands. Small businesses across the country are facing challenging economic conditions as the nation faces a 7.8 per cent inflation rate in December 2022.

Prior to December 2022’s soaring inflation rate, Monash University’s Retail Monitor, released in November, found bricks and mortar made a fashionable comeback as physical shopping returned to pre-pandemic levels. Comparatively, the e-commerce brands that had blossomed in the pandemic began their new brand journey by introducing retail pop-ups to meet changing consumer demand.

The retail pop-up economy

Retail pop-up stores have gained popularity in recent years and benefit the local economy. An effective pop-up store builds trust by allowing customers to see the products in person and can significantly enhance brand awareness. 

Traditionally, retail pop-ups have taken up floor space in an existing retailer or an empty commercial space, and timeframe can vary from several weeks at a time to a short-term lease of a couple months. While effective, these types of leases can be cost prohibitive for many brands and can mean a larger commitment (and risk) than a short-term lease. Peerspace enables commercial space owners, or hosts, to list their space by the hour.

Brands looking to plan a pop up that is a day, or a few days long can now book a space that suits their needs for a shorter time frame. This enables the existing retailer or commercial space owner to make passive income while the e-commerce brand can identify and utilise spaces that meet their target demographics and help to engage their customer base. Hosts can also choose to list their spaces for other activities, such as photo shoots, video shoots, meetings, and events. 

The benefits of retail pop-up stores

Established retailers can adopt retail pop-ups into their business model. It allows brands to test out store locations and further capitalise on seasonal sales, engage loyal customers, and enhance the customer experience through novelty. It is an opportunity for businesses to change the format for shoppers and provide a personable brand experience.

Cult favourite Australian formal and bridal fashion retailer White Runway recently held a three-day pop up in Melbourne at Social Studio. White Runway offers hundreds of dress styles in a size-inclusive range, all designed and delivered to your door within one to twelve weeks. By hosting a pop-up event in a Peerspace venue, the brand was able to take their e-commerce brand values beyond the screen to deliver excellent customer service in person.

Retail pop-up stores are also a low-risk tool for emerging brands and can provide a unique opportunity to incubate and drive revenue. Small businesses can trial a retail space without the considerable upfront cost that comes with a new store opening, and without a months-long commitment to a lease. Peerspace also enables growing brands to book spaces in high traffic areas that may otherwise be cost prohibitive.

Sustainable fashion brand Ellore was founded in 2021 and began in a local coffee shop on the Mornington Peninsula, Melbourne. The co-founders wanted to support local Australian businesses while creating ethically made pieces that are manufactured in Melbourne. Ellore held their pop-up store at The Content Garden in Melbourne, noting that “everything from the initial booking all the way to the final pack down and collection of all of our items was an absolute breeze,” and that the space was “a blank canvas for you as the brand to come in and make it purely your own.”

Retail pop-up stores are an effective way for e-commerce brands to establish a physical presence and appeal to customers by providing unique hybrid experiences. With Australians tightening their belts in the face of inflation, it is more important than ever for brands to reach more customers and develop greater retention strategies. Emarsys’ 2022 Loyalty Index reported that 79% of Australians are loyal to specific retailers, and over half only buy from brands they love and trust.

Peerspace provides a platform for businesses to rent brick-and-mortar storefronts by the hour for pop-up shops and events, helping them get in front of customers without needing to pay rent. Particularly with high inflation rates and the high cost of living, rentable venues are not always accessible. Brands need to find and keep new customers, and they need to do it without breaking the bank – and the hybrid experience of a retail pop-up is a great way to do that.

Emily Farmer is market manager at Peerspace.