Retail

Music artist The Weeknd advertises his pop-up shops to 4 million people: What makes a celeb retail store work?

Emma Koehn /

The Weeknd

Source: Dennis van Tine/ABACAPRESS.COM

Some retailers around the world might be worried about the decline in bricks-and-mortar sales, but celebrity entrepreneurs don’t seem concerned.

This weekend Melbourne will be the only Australian city to host a pop-up shop from Canadian artist The Weeknd, who will be celebrating the release of his Starboy album with a limited edition clothing range. Shops in Tokyo, Toronto and Berlin will also open this weekend in a bid to court the artist’s fan base, including his 4.23 million Twitter followers.

The celebrity pop-up is becoming a regular feature of the retail event calendar across the world – earlier this year Melbourne shop owners clashed with Kanye West when he set up a temporary shop on Brunswick Street and drew hoards of fans that blocked other stores without warning.

Bon Iver might not have been selling jumpers, but the US artist also drew crowds soon after, when an album launch turned into a global laneway listening party, much to the confusion of surrounding businesses.

Read more: Kanye fans threaten Melbourne shop owner after Pablo pop-up left her without weekend trade

Meanwhile, reality TV star and make up entrepreneur Kylie Jenner has revealed plans to open a bricks-and-mortar pop-up outlet in Los Angeles that will reportedly look like her bedroom and will stock her ‘lip kit’ producers from December 9.

The announcement caused a storm of excitement from the star’s massive social media following, which at 18.8 million strong is the equivalent of about 80% of Australia’s population.

The power of surprise 

Celebrity bricks-and-mortar stores immediately have big pools of potential customers to draw on, but their announcements and execution still rely on one vital element – surprise.

“It’s a delightful surprise when a store pops up that you haven’t seen before,” says Marketing Angels founder Michelle Gamble.

“People will always talk about the things that excite them.”

Where these retail projects really succeed, however, is when they use short windows of time to latch onto excited shoppers and capture their interests for the longer term, Gamble told SmartCompany.

“These ones will continue to sell to you – ongoing,” says Gamble. “The ones I’ve seen that are successful will get you on the newsletter list, it’s all about how you make the most of that event.”

A number of celebrities and brands from the US and Canada have pinned Sydney and Melbourne as prime spaces to launch short term retail events, and they clearly see the space to test out expansion plans in short term bursts, Gamble says.

And these brands know how to document the experience to leverage the excitement around the brand later. The Weeknd has already put the word out a number of times via his own social media accounts about store locations and appearances in Toronto, each time reaching thousands of potential customers.

For surrounding retailers, these pop-up experiences can be a blessing or a curse – often they are set up by record labels of advertising companies without notifying the surrounding area until launch. If other businesses are lucky, they can end up riding that wave. However, while it might look spontaneous from the outside, there’s no doubt a high degree of planning goes into every retail “event”.

“You’ve really got to do your research beforehand. Let customers already know that you’re going to pop up – and it’s all about knowing you have the right foot traffic in the area, that the most people are going to come up,” says Gamble.

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Emma Koehn

Emma Koehn is SmartCompany's senior journalist.

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