Online retailers turn to Christmas pop-up shops in bid to cash in on “new retail”


Online Australian retailers are increasingly seeing the value of greeting their customers face-to-face, choosing to turn their hands to running bricks-and-mortar stores.

While bricks-and-mortar retailers are often urged to improve their online offerings, the likes of Groupon Australia and online homewares boutique HardToFind are using the Christmas period to experiment with physical pop-up shops.

Daily deals site Groupon Australia quietly opened its first Australian pop-up three weeks ago, offering shoppers in Surry Hills 70% off 20 products, which they can either purchase in store, or order online and pick up in person.

Groupon Australia chief executive Alistair Venn told SmartCompany this morning the retailer wanted to ensure the pop-up shop was “running perfectly” before officially launching the concept this week.

“It’s really ramping up now that we are fully into the Christmas period,” Venn says.

So far the feedback has been positive, with Venn saying Groupon is seeing both existing and new customers venturing in store. A spinning prize wheel, and special “Sydney pick up deals” on the Groupon website, offer extra incentives.

Venn says, of the Groupon customers that have purchased one of the 20 stocked products online, 47% have opted to “click and collect” – one of the most popular items to date is a 3 metre-wide deck umbrella – which is a “much higher ratio than we expected”.

“We foresee it will get even higher as we get closer to Christmas,” he says.

“The key is to provide customers with whatever solutions they need at the time they need them.”

Catering to Groupon customers who want to “click and collect” is the primary motivation for opening a physical store, says Venn, but introducing Groupon to new customers is also part of the strategy.

Venn says the concept will appeal to new customers who want to purchase physical goods from Groupon, as well as those who are interested in Groupon’s “experience” vouchers for things like holidays and beauty treatments.

Sydney is home to the largest share of Groupon’s four million members so it was an obvious choice for the site’s first physical store, says Venn. But the company is open to launching pop-up outlets in other cities during the festive season, as well as having a “physical presence all year round”.

“The peak of the benefit will still be in the peak season in the run up to Christmas,” he says.

Another online retailer trialling a Christmas pop-up shop is online homewares boutique HardToFind. The HardtoFind bricks-and-mortar store popped up at The Rocks in Sydney’s CBD last Thursday.

Erica Stewart, co-founder of HardToFind, told SmartCompany the shop has so far been embraced by Sydney shoppers.

“We’ve been open for one weekend and we had a steady flow of people through,” Stewart says.

“We had a lot of great comments about the products, lots of people took home the catalogues or shopped from the iPad stations we set up.”

The HardToFind pop-up shop is open between Thursday and Sunday for the next two weeks, with Stewart and co-founder Trudi Jenkins hoping to “make the most of weekend traffic and the market activity in the area”.

“For us it’s a way to bring the brand to life,” Stewart says of the decision to venture into bricks-and-mortar retailing.

“It’s the idea of new retail or showrooming, customers can come in and browse and then order in store. We have iPads in store and we printed out 5000 glossy catalogues for the pop-up store. All the products in store are listed in the catalogue so people can order products they have seen from the comfort of their own home.”

This is the first time HardToFind has experimented with a physical store and Stewart says if the pop-up shop is successful, the retailer will consider a more permanent physical presence. At the very least, Stewart says she “would love to roll [the pop-up shop] out to other states”.

While Stewart admits the shop’s fitout was “costly” because the HardToFind team “wanted to do a good job”, she says there are “great rental deals” to be found in Sydney at this time of the year thanks to an abundance of vacant storefronts.

“There is also a bit of a pop-up movement at The Rocks,” she says.

Like Groupon, HardToFind is also running promotions in conjunction with the pop-up shop, including offering shoppers free frozen yoghurt.

“Omni-channel is still a big buzz word in the ecommerce space, customers want something a bit different or experiential,” Stewart says.

“It’s about offering that little bit extra, something a bit different.”

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