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Pop-up Retailing Gaining new Ground

Although pop-up shops have been around in Hungary for a while, the concept has started to extend into other genres: today, not only do temporary fashion-themed stores appear, but the idea is also becoming increasingly popular in gastronomy and even in the media field.

If you take the glass elevator to the top of Mammut shopping center in the heart of Buda and then follow the temporary signs that lead through an area rarely seen by regular customers, you will soon find yourself in a secluded location where a secret, and also temporary, store operates. 

This is Titkosbolt (it literally translates as “Secret Shop”), a small business run by businesswoman Zsófia Ungváry. But one had better be quick, as the shop sells its exclusive clothing items for four weeks only before it disappears, only to pop up again next May, at a location yet to be determined. This time, the sales period started on November 18.

“There’s a collection of some 500 individual pieces carefully picked by myself, and these luxury items will only be available for a month,” Ungváry told the Budapest Business Journal, showing the small but luxurious space located on the top of the mall, a location she had negotiated over for a long time. But the concept requires such a special location, she says, as it greatly contributes to the feel of exclusivity that Ungváry’s buyers already enjoy. 

“The world of fashion today is overwhelmed by mass-products and mass brands; the market is ruled by multinational companies,” Ungváry says. But there is an ever-growing demand for exclusivity and uniqueness, and one way to satisfy such needs is the concept of pop-up retail.

There is only one single item of everything Ungváry offers, whether that is a coat, a pair of shoes or a bag. Brands include Furla and Michael Kors. The target group of the business is women aged 35-50, for whom it is important to own unique and luxurious clothes that they won’t see worn by others. The one-month sale period starts with an exclusive opening party, to which only VIP customers are invited.

Social Event

“This is also sort of a social event, as many of my clients bring their friends. The ritual of shopping thus becomes quite personal; in many cases, I pick items based on the preferences of my individual customers,” Ungváry explains.

The main advertising tool of the shop is word of mouth marketing, which is how the vast majority of Ungváry’s customers get their information about the place and time of the next

Titkosbolt event. People “popping in” from the street represent only about 5-10% of the shoppers.

As the name of the business suggests, customers are given the feeling of belonging to a special group, and this feeling of exclusivity is enhanced by the fact that the venue of the pop up shop keeps changing - the first time, for example, it was held in a remote mansion in the Buda hills.

But what is pop up retail? While the concept might feel fairly new to modern-day retail and marketing, in fact its roots go way back in history. Temporary retail establishments date to the Vienna December market in 1298, and the European Christmas markets that followed. Seasonal fairs are another good example of pop-up retail. Customer demands have changed, fast and tangible actions are needed while, in the meantime, we are increasingly conscious about not missing a thing, says communications expert Kornél Bőhm, explains the modern-day reemergence and spread of the pop up concept.

Psychology of Scarcity

Pop up shops serve such purposes perfectly. It is based on the psychology of scarcity: simply put, people place a higher value on an object that is scarce, and a lower value on those that are abundant. The concept brings together immediacy and experience, two keywords for today’s new generation.

What we today call pop-up retail started to appear in the United States at the beginning of the 2000s, and was seen as being of an enormous benefit during the global financial crisis of 2008: on one hand, creating a temporary sales location was cheaper for young designers than renting a permanent retail space, and it was also a great tool for filling retail spaces, even temporarily, that would otherwise be standing empty.

Later, luxury fashion brands including Kate Spade, Louis Vuitton and Colette started to develope pop-up shops as part of their campaigns.

In Hungary, fashion designer brand Nanushka was the first to sell its items via pop-up shops. The concept later started to extend into other genres. For one, hamburger outlet Zing started life as a pop-up.

“The method is often used for testing new markets,” Bőhm said. “It is a cost-saving solution to start a business or to monitor market demands and get feedback about a new enterprise’s products or services.”

Apart from the world of fashion and gastronomy, there are quite unusual areas where the concept can be detected. The Dutch, for example, invented the church on demand concept: a transparent inflatable tent that pops up at a location when an urgent need for worship arises.

Pop-up papers also exist, such as a publication in the United Kingdom reacting to the Brexit decision that had only four issues.