Pop-up shops are quite noticeable this time of year, with Halloween stores scattered throughout Greater Victoria, rolling in like they’re a bunch of carnies, and disappearing behind a mysterious smoke bomb like they were never there.
Retailers of every kind use pop-ups to either hold a large, short-term sale, take advantage of a peak season, or try out a new area (or first ever area) to see if it’s a viable, permanent decision. Food trucks can even be considered a pop-up before committing to a stationary restaurant. There’s nothing worse than signing a long lease only to find out the market isn’t there.
“UKEE” IN THE HOUSE
Piña Art + Clothing just opened on October 10th at 640 Yates Street and runs until December 30th, just in time for holiday shoppers. This boutique shop has been selling local art, clothing and jewellery since 2007 in Ucluelet (Ukee) and has a second store in Tofino (You may have also seen them at Pemberton and Squamish Music Festivals). They recently held a pop-up in Vancouver, but this is the first time they’ve come to Victoria.
“A large percentage of our customers are from Victoria as our brand fits the west coast lifestyle which Victorians can relate to living so close to the ocean,” explained Jeni Christie, Victoria Store Manager. “Every aspect of Piña is unique; people travel from Victoria to the west coast just to shop at the Piña store. If we are successful we will probably open a shop in Victoria in the future; this is a bit of a test run to see if it is economically viable.”
Angie Roussin, Owner of Piña, is also the main graphic artist. You’ll see her designs on all the clothing apparel and canvases, which are sourced from Vancouver. Everything from a mermaid playing a fiddle, to a bearded pineapple smoking a pipe and wearing aviators (“El Hefe” which is also their logo). It’s tough to categorize the style, but if I had to I’d say it’s “Nautical Earth-Punk”.
“We try and buy locally as much as possible and it’s great because a lot of our product suppliers are friends,” commented Christie. “We sell Joleen Sohier Jewelry, Rainwater Soap and Candle Company, Ukee Toukee, Tomahawks Moc Co. and Jeni Mack Clothing. It’s great to work together and help each other grow.”
In addition to using local suppliers, they also buy the products outright so there’s no consignment. This is huge for any small business.
HOPPING ON THE BANDWAGON
Pop-up shops aren’t a new concept, in fact, they’ve been in Victoria for over a decade (In the UK for even longer), but they are starting to become a very popular tactic as of late.
In the summer of 2014, the Vancouver Island School of Art partnered with the Downtown Victoria Business Association (DVBA) and occupied 9 locations to display art during the summer. It added an experience to downtown strolls and even inspired an art gallery to lease the Broad Street location for over a year.
She She Bags and Shoes are another example. They held a big sale in the old Levi’s space on Government right next door to them and had great success.
Tatum & Olivia, local Sidney store, used the same space for a summer sale in August in order to get a little closer to their Victoria fans.
Lotus was a pop-up shop that successfully turned into Migration and is now permanently doing business in the Bay Centre’s main level.
Long-time pop-up shops in Victoria have also been tourist shops.
The souvenir-filled stores swoop in during peak tourist season to optimize return on investment. The old Hemp & Co space on the north-west corner of Government and Fort was recently vacated by ‘Save on Souvenirs’’.
FUELING THE CITY
“Pop-ups provide added animation to our downtown and a unique opportunity for innovation if you can find the property manager who shares your vision for doing something different in the marketplace,” stated Ken Kelly, General Manager of DVBA. “What we want to do is create an environment in which entrepreneurs automatically gravitate to downtown as their first priority for creating a business or a pop-up.”
One of the tools the DVBA have created to support this is a website, InvestDowntownVictoria.ca. It provides a full range of information investing downtown, such as where people work, live, and stay when visiting downtown on a block-by-block basis, and even where people walk downtown.
Did you know we have eight pedestrian counters throughout the city that track pedestrian flows in real time? Neither did I!
The DVBA also has a partnership with Spacelist in which vacant retail and office space is listed, and it’s fed into the Invest Downtown site (Current commercial vacancy is 8-10%).
If you’re an entrepreneur who’s been too timid to dive into the downtown pool, give it another thought. I mean, just look at the graphic below to see how many people are downtown every work day!
If you’re a consumer who shops local as often as possible, keep your eyes peeled for fresh, new pop-ups and pay them a visit. They may be gone the next time you walk by!