The dawn of what is now perceived as pop-uppery is usually traced to a gray Berlin day in 2004 when Rei Kawakubo, the driving force behind the avant garde Comme des Garcons fashion brand created a temporary shop in an abandoned building. Since that time pop-ups have become a key element of popular culture with the pop-up concept being applied to art exhibits in gymnasiums, concerts in laundromats, restaurants in empty gas stations, movies projected on hay bales, and just about every other out of left field event you can think of as well as many that no certifiably sane person could ever think of!

The artistic & cultural aspects are paramount

You’ll readily find millions of farmer’s market and flea market enthusiasts who will testify that pop-ups are hardly anything new. Take one parking lot or mowed field, add a bunch of folding tables with produce and other products plunked on them, and you have a pop-up event. Halloween stores are a typical example of pop-up shops which surface in strip malls and main streets around Labor Day and serve the strictly seasonal niche market which treasures dressing up like zombies or witches to raise cain on the Eve of All Hallows. Similarly, you’ll find a vast variety of fireworks pop-ups in little roadside shacks prior to the Fourth of July. However, the zeitgeist definition of pop-up events is far more extensive than the flea market low rent individual temporary storekeeper model with the distinction being that the artistic and cultural aspects of the pop-up event become of paramount importance, not the attraction that you can get hand-picked heirloom tomatoes for $2 a pound.

No limit to the potential locations

Chef Ludo Lefebvre, who judging from his recent stint on ABC’s The Taste is a living stereotype of everything that is distasteful about elitist Gallic culture from rampant Dark Ages misogyny to a hair trigger vile temper, has nonetheless become known as the grand-pere of pop-up restaurants due to his pioneering work in commandeering under- or fully un-used kitchens in order to foist his overpriced gourmet creations onto the public. Restaurants may be one of the most visible but not necessarily the most popular form of the pop-up as there doesn’t seem to be any limit to this new retail paradigm and there surely is no limit to the potential locations for these events to be staged.

Bringing life to abandoned & forgotten corners

There are literally millions of square feet of perfectly usable retail spaces in the United States that not only are currently empty but may never be occupied again until they are demolished or fall over from their own decay. This massive amount of available space is a driving force behind the pop-up event trend, as inventive and imaginative entrepreneurs can leverage these spaces to create short-lived buzz driven businesses which can bring new life to these abandoned and forgotten corners of our cities.

Landlords get free cosmetic decoration & maintenance

While it is highly unlikely that pop-up events can restore grand symbols of our national decay such as the Packard Plant in Detroit, there is no doubt that the trend is helping to restore life and vitality to some depressed areas of our inner cities. If you’re a landlord who has been saddled with one of these perennially empty structures you’ll find that it’s a great way to promote your property, get some feet marching through the doors, and even be left with some cosmetic decoration and maintenance provided free of charge by the pop-up tenant.

The pop-up phenomenon has attracted the attention of corporate boardrooms and some major brands have taken the plunge into this brave new world of retailing. When you have big guns like Gucci, Colette, Kate Spade, Louis Vuitton and even Target Stores embracing the pop-up retail trend you know that you’re riding a wave that is only going to keep rising and rising. Pop-ups have a natural affinity for social media and email marketing oriented brands, so if you’ve already mastered the art of online promotion, pop-up events can be your best strategy for engaging your local customers!