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Pop-up events: the kick-starter to a post-lockdown world?


Sophie Baillie, PR & Marketing Director
  • Kick-start retail and hospitality markets 
  • Generate additional revenue in a post-lockdown world
  • Innovation, novelty, creativity and exclusive

We are now four weeks into life after COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, and over the last 18 months it is no secret that retail and hospitality industries have been hit the hardest. Most people are keener than ever to get back to normality; to see friends and family that they haven’t been able to and to enjoy life once more. This gives businesses and brands a fantastic opportunity to be creative and think out-of-the-box in order to reach their current and potential customer base. 

With the ever-increasing cost of commercial leases along with being tied into lengthy contracts (typically three to five years), pop-up restaurants and shops offer brands a cost-effective option to entice consumers away from their sofas and digital devices, the use of which has soared in popularity during the pandemic, and back to real life experiences.  

One recent example of this is Stoke-on-Trent’s largest shopping centre, The Potteries Centre, which launched its own pop-up initiative to support local independents in the wake of the closure of a number of big name stores; mainly due to the collapse of the Arcadia Group. Through a Birmingham-based letting agent, independent businesses can now apply to occupy a unit for anywhere between one or six weeks at one time. 

Despite COVID-19’s impact on the recent ecommerce boom, three in five consumers still believe it is important for brands to have a physical, bricks and mortar presence as well as being online. Interestingly, this figure rises to three in four shoppers in the Gen Z cohort, and 70% of millennial consumers, proving that an interest in in-store shopping among younger age groups is driving an omnichannel retail future. As such, online-only brands should consider including pop-ups in their marketing strategy moving forward as they serve as a valuable brand activation tool to reach target audiences. 

Partnerships and collaborations between companies sharing knowledge, branding and financing in order to create innovative pop-up concepts can differentiate brands from their competitors. The Giz n Green, Night Tales and John Lewis collaboration in London is just one example of this. This summer the rooftop of Oxford Street’s John Lewis will be dubbed “Willows on the Roof” and is being taken over by Night Tales, which has brought in Gizzi Erskine and Professor Green to run the food; last year Giz n Green completed a hugely successful two month pop-up at Passo and they have been delivering their pizzas across London ever since. 

In Cambridge, we are lucky enough to have some wonderful pop-up events on our doorstep feeding our inner foodies (there are a big bunch of us in the city). Not only do they give the Cambridge public the opportunity to enjoy different cuisines, but they present a platform for chefs, caterers and cooking enthusiasts to promote their skill and, in turn, build brand awareness. 

From secret or discrete venues, to chef meet and greets or the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sample a special one-off menu, the real beauty of pop-up restaurants is that they allow for a new kind of freedom that bricks and mortar restaurants don’t always allow – it is just as much about running a brand as it is a restaurant. On top of this, pop-up restaurants tend to be a low-key affair, only discovered by invite or word of mouth, which adds a sense of exclusivity to the event, and in turn the brand. 

For me, it is definitely time for the hospitality and retail sectors to get experimental with their marketing to raise brand awareness and generate additional revenue in a post-lockdown world. As we move out of the subscription economy that COVID-19 sent soaring, it is only natural that people will crave novel experiences, and so, brands should stay one step ahead of the rising trend of pop-ups to keep existing customer bases engaged and returning, and tempt new diners and shoppers into their sales funnel. 

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