Pop-up stores have become very attractive in difficult economic conditions as they are temporary stores that take advantage of ad-hoc retailing opportunities. These can include anything from taking up a temporary shop lease to having a site at a one-off experience, such as an exhibition or festival.
As pop-up stores usually disappear as quickly as they materialise, they operate in retail spaces that are very restricted, offer a very limited selling period and require low infrastructure costs to be profitable which makes the concept worthwhile. This means that capital expenditure on items, such as point-of-sale (POS) hardware needs to be kept to an absolute minimum.
The capabilities of POS extend beyond completing a transaction for a customer when it is combined with mobile technology. Instead, it becomes a vital tool for in-store marketing operations. It provides the opportunity for active selling, alleviates long impersonal register queues, faster sales transactions, availability of customers’ key performance statistics, options to email or print dockets, lay-by, stocktake and make store transfers.
Mobile solutions also leverage cloud technology enabling retailers to access real-time sales information at any time, on any mobile device, from anywhere in the world, giving them the power to make decisions remotely using consolidated real-time information of their retail operation.
A mobile POS solution serves to not only keep hardware costs down but it can also operate in very tight retail spaces. A typical mobile solution also comes in at around 50 per cent of the cost of a normal full POS setup.
One Teaspoon is one fashion favourite that has incorporated the latest mobile technology into its business strategy, as it actively considers pop-up stores as a retail strategy.
Founder Jamie Blakey – who was later joined by now-business partner Liz Roberts – established One Teaspoon 12 years ago. It now stocks its clothes in 32 countries around the world and can be found in nearly 200 stores across Australia. The company also operates four of its own retail stores and manages a thriving online business.
Five years ago, Roberts realised that One Teaspoon was outgrowing its IT infrastructure and that a new software system was required.
“We were going through a big growth stage and I could see the need for a system that was scalable and could grow with us,” she says.
At the time, the business was only a wholesaler where it produced and distributed clothes to be sold in retail outlets. It also did not have any company-owned stores or online retail presence. Therefore, Roberts was required to form a computer system that would support One Teaspoon’s strong wholesale management capability.
“It had to have a very strong inventory management system that would allow efficient processes, from placing production orders overseas to taking sales orders, fulfilment both domestically and internationally, and it had to have an extensive reporting capability,” she says.
“In addition, we wanted an IT partner who would continue to innovate and invest in developing new technologies to stay at the forefront of the industry.”
Research brought Roberts to Island Pacific, a developer specialising in merchandising, store operations and mobile point-of-sale solutions for the retail industry.
“Of course we shopped around. We always look at alternatives when buying but we decided with the strength of the Island Pacific system and given our future plans for the business, their solution was the right way to go. The fact that Island Pacific had extensive international experience was an added attraction.”
Within 12 months of the wholesale system going live, One Teaspoon expanded into online retailing and it needed software to assist with the move.
“One of the key criteria in partnering with Island Pacific was the ability to use their software for retailing. We were able to integrate the whole of our business, from wholesale to online sales,” Roberts adds.
Eighteen months later, when One Teaspoon opened the first of its Australian retail outlets, it was a similar story.
An Island Pacific POS solution was initially deployed to help manage the complexities of retail sales including returns, lay-bys and special orders, banking, operations and maintenance.
Integrated with the earlier modules, it provided One Teaspoon with a complete business management solution encompassing production and sales planning through to inventory management, retail and online operations.
“Individual parts of each module are great but it's the overall delivery that's the strength of the system,” Roberts says. “As more and more businesses become global and move into the digital world, it's the ability to move across all those multi-channels that is critical.”
More recently One Teaspoon has introduced Island Pacific Mobile, a retail solution that includes a POS component.
“We have found this wireless extension to our in-store operations to be incredibly effective and have transformed the store experience for our customers. As a brand that attracts a youthful market with not a lot of patience, our staff can process sales and check on stock in other stores, on-the-spot, anywhere in the store,” Robert says.
“During sales and times like Christmas when the stores are packed, this is particularly important as we don't want staff tied behind the register.
“At our multi-storey [Surry Hills] store for example, we can have staff on both floors processing transactions without the need to take customers to a centralised POS desk.”
To ensure that management remains in contact with performance and business data from anywhere in the world, the company invested in Island Pacific’s Omni Channel Server. This allows real-time store sales information to be accessed remotely via a smartphone or web-browser.
“No matter where I am, I can track sales and stock levels on a live basis. Our demographic wants everything to be instant. As a business we have to be on the ball.”
Roberts also relies on a variety of automatically generated reports that cover all aspects of the business. “The level of detail that we can get out of the reports is phenomenal. They’ve become a critical part of our business decision-making process.”
By mid-2011, One Teaspoon was looking for an opportunity to expose its swimwear line independently of the main clothing line. The company came up with idea to launch a pop-up store at Bondi Beach over summer.
“As it was a new concept and we did not want to over-invest, we decided to take up the opportunity of a temporary lease at Bondi Beach and to operate the store following the small pop-up store concept,” Roberts says.
“We installed Island Pacific Mobile given its small hardware footprint. It was able to provide full sales functionality without encroaching on limited and valuable counter space. It also had the added bonus of portability allowing the sales staff to personalise the shopping experience of customers in the store.
“Our sales staff love it too. We are all pretty much permanently attached to our phones these days whether it be texting, Facebooking or using Instagram, so to introduce POS technology in the store that uses iPads means the staff are instantly in touch with how to use it, and let’s face it…it’s more fun than using a big old PC and mouse!
“Once the lease expired, we packed up the Island Pacific Mobile solution and moved it to other stores to assist with their sales and stock processing operations.”
Given the success of its first pop-up store, One Teaspoon plans to use the concept to launch its line of homewares, jewellery and sunglasses over the next 12 months. It currently keeps six mobile POS units on hand in the office for its next pop-up occasion.
“Looking to the future, One Teaspoon's IT strategy is unlikely to ever remain static for long we're always looking to advance the software,” Roberts concludes. “We're currently talking to Island Pacific about integrating social media into the software and we're discussing the use of QR codes,” Robert says.
In today’s retail world, pop-up stores and mobile POS solutions are almost synergistic. Though the ideology behind a pop-up store provides a temporary trading environment, which can be for a limited period of time and/or in isolated areas, it is appealing to today’s astute retailers who will take up any reasonable opportunity to extend their brand and sell their product.
A pop-up store’s portable and mobile characteristics are exactly why a mobile POS solution complements this type of environment perfectly. One Teaspoon’s success in this area highlights the complementary strategic role pop-up stores can play in a retail business strategy.
With long term and full term shop leases now so expensive, the availability of ad-hoc trading environments and temporary leases becomes very attractive. They provide a great opportunity for one off marketing campaigns that ultimately need a short-term outlet to promote and sell their overall strategy.
The pop-up store concept is not only here to stay but will gain momentum at a rapid rate. After all, maximising sales potential, given limited time and space, for a minimal initial investment, is hard to argue against and even harder to resist.
For more information, visit www.islandpacific.com
This article was featured in the Sep-Nov issue of RetailBiz magazine. To subscribe, click here.