Pop-up opportunity: why temporary formats will be key to unlocking tomorrow’s retail world, says Green Room


It goes without saying that the appetite to plan for and invest in permanent retail projects has been temporarily stunted. But billions of consumer brains across the globe are craving exciting, new, in-real-life experiences due to a serious lack of stimulus so far this year.

As soon as normality starts to creep back into life, pop-ups will be perfectly positioned to achieve brand growth while treading carefully into the future.

Green Room has identified where the opportunities lie:

  • To bring communities together and make your brand central to their experience
  • To use bookings-only or invitation-only for hygiene and exclusivity
  • To dream big, surprising and exciting consumers
  • To drive loyalty by proving that you care beyond the point of sale
  • To prove your sustainability credentials
  • To use temporary formats to give consumers the moment they’ve missed 
  • To use low-risk temporary formats to test new technologies at retail

Opportunity 1

To make your brand central to online and offline communities through pop-up spaces designed to bring people together. So, why now? There’s a renewed strength in local communities, and the number of online communities built on shared passions is growing thick and fast.


E-commerce fashion app Depop invited 50 of its best sellers to set up shop in its temporary space on Broadway, NY. The two-day event was a physical version of their online marketplace targeted at a Gen Z community of fashion entrepreneurs.

There were workshops, art installations and talks on key issues like sustainability and activism, all of which helped to cement Depop as being of core importance to their audience.


Jacamo’s pop-up pub in London was an interesting social experiment by the men’s clothing brand. It offered a ‘safe space’ for men to discuss their issues, and to get a sense of what the 2020 man would be. Men could claim a drink on the house, listen to live music, get a free trim from the in-house barber, or speak to one of the stylists in residence. It even featured celebrity visitors, including Freddie Flintoff. 


Promoting creative diversity, in 2019, American designer Virgil Abloh (artistic director of Louis Vuitton menswear and founder of Milan streetwear brand Off-White), partnered on a Chicago pop-up for Nike’s experimental retail division NikeLab – a workshop space for mentoring 10 young Chicagoans, which also sold some rare product and held free, bookable events.

Opportunity 2

To use bookings-only and invitation-only pop-ups for hygiene purposes and to reward your biggest, most loyal fans. Whether social distancing measures are in place or not, millions will still be reluctant to visit your stores.


LEGO launched an art gallery pop-up this year in London. It was a celebration of LEGO’s heritage, which featured an exclusive collectable wooden model (LEGO began by making wooden toys in Denmark in the 1930s). The pop-up was hugely popular and operated with 30-minute reservable slots. Many retail experts think bookable, exclusive experiences will play a big part in the future of retail.


NARS created an actor-led, bookings-only pop-up event to promote their Climax Mascara. The House of Climax featured sensorial rooms inspired by the mascara that include mirrored walls and surprise performances, all of which created an exclusive-feeling event for their biggest fans.

Opportunity 3

To dream big and create new bonds with consumers through never-before-seen pop-up experiences that wow and excite. Billions of humans across the globe are craving exciting new experiences and stimulation having been locked inside for most of the year.

Louis Vuitton

Louis Vuitton’s pop-up in New York was most notable for the colour scheme – every inch of the space, inside and out, was painted in neon green. The space featured a series of exclusive products designed for this space. And to entice customers, a mailbox, fire hydrant, and bicycle further up the street were all painted in the same bright green to extend the experience outside of the store.


Ice cream brand Magnum launched its new ruby-chocolate magnum (made using cocoa beans processed to produce a pink hue) through use of a ‘Ruby Room’ on London’s Southbank. Conceived as a direct response to Blue Monday – supposedly the most downbeat day in the consumer calendar each year – the decor was awash with mood-enhancing pink hues, infinity-mirrored walls and a calming soundtrack.


Cosmetics retailer Glossier opened a pop-up on Floral Street in Covent Garden inspired by British architecture and interiors, decorated in colourful floral wallpaper and carpets which were hand drawn by the in-house creative team. Each room featured elements such as secret doors that took you from one room to another, adding some theatre to the experience.

Opportunity 4

For brands to use pop-up to prove they care; those who champion acts of kindness in the short-term stand to grow their audiences in the long-term. 2020 has seen humans become more ‘human’, caring more for those around them and generally becoming more conscientious. 


 PayPal launched a pop-up on New York’s Fifth Avenue for the holiday season aimed at helping small businesses to get the footfall they could usually only dream of. The pop-up unveiled a series of window displays, with QR codes to scan that directed customers to the small businesses’ websites. For the lucky SMEs involved, this was a rare chance to get some coverage on one of the world’s most sought-after retail locations.


Harrods last year set up Fashion Re-Told – a charitable pop-up shop with all proceeds going to charity partner NSPCC. The store itself was designed by Harrods and scented by perfumery Jo Malone. Unlike any normal charity shop, Fashion Re-Told was stocked with pre-loved designer clothes donated by brands like Stella McCartney and Ralph Lauren.

 Opportunity 5

To use pop-up to connect with consumers on mutually-shared beliefs around sustainability. Heightened awareness means consumers are seeking brands who share their environmental concerns.


Converse showcased its commitment to sustainability by launching a one-day pop-up earlier this year. The space in Coal Drops Yard supported the launch of its Renew Canvas collection which is made from used plastic bottles. The space itself was created from locally sourced and recycled materials to support the launch. The one-day event also hosted DIY workshops on upcycling garments and provided a space for education and experimentation to further support Converse’s sustainability initiative.


Carlsberg launched a sustainability-driven packaging and brand identity pop-up in Singapore this year. The activation drew attention to various eco innovations, including ink that’s made using renewable energy, a wax emulsion applied to bottles to double their lifetime and a ‘fresh cap’ that reduces oxidation. Consumers are becoming increasingly keen to buy from brands who strive to be sustainable in a meaningful way.


At the 2018 Bread&&Butter festival, we worked with Timberland to create an eco-focused experiential space. A multi-sensory, organic 180sqm eco-conscious park was born, where visitors could cultivate their own tree, make eco-friendly t-shirts and learn more about Timberland’s brand values. View the case study here.

Opportunity 6

To use semi-permanent and temporary projects to give consumers the moments and opportunities they’ve missed. Almost every important or exciting event in the calendar has been cancelled this year.

 London Selfie Factory

The London Selfie Factory pop-up in Westfield was a dream experience for Instagram lovers. It encompassed 20 different dramatic backdrops or booths for quirky social media images. Among the most popular was a bath of pink balls and a 1950s diner. A circuit around the space cost £10 and with similar spaces popping up all around the world, it seems experience as entertainment is still a big winner.

New Balance

Sportswear brand New Balance launched a pub to accompany its sponsorship of the London Marathon. The Runaway only traded in miles run to incentivise people to get out on the road. Using the Strava app, runners logged their miles which were then exchanged at the pub for drinks and food.

Paris River Pop-up Cinema

The Parisian floating cinema, in which guests will be sat in a fleet of smart electric boats has emerged from a partnership between the City of Paris, Haagen-Dazs and the MK2 cinema chain. This was a creative way of replacing Paris Plages – an annual event which sees the banks of the Seine and Bassin de la Villette – with a social distancing alternative.

Opportunity 7

To use short-term pop-up projects to test new digital elements with the aim of enhancing your omni-channel strategy in the long-run. Shoppers’ migration to digital during lockdown has put a spotlight on the need for brands to use tech-enhanced store design.


Merging physical, digital and product trials, PUMA created The Skill Cube experience in their New York 5th Avenue flagship store. Step inside the room and consumers instantly enter a multi-sensory, immersive digital experience in which PUMA star athletes Antoine Griezmann, Romelu Lukaku and Lewis Hamilton take visitors through a series of drills, competing with other visitors digitally for top spot on the leaderboard. Click here to view the case study.

Ombori x Clas Ohlson

Swedish technologists Ombori’s window-scanning virtual booking concept (aka the ‘grid platform’) gives users updates on occupancy and an option to join a virtual queue. They can also pre-book online with the same system. Consumers can control content on motion-sensitive, interactive window displays via their smartphone with just the flick of a mobile phone, activated by scanning a QR code and can also transfer that browsing to their devices.


Burberry created an abstract snowspace in the Corner Shop experimental space in Selfridges London, featuring inanimate penguins, which could be brought to life through augmented reality, allowing visitors to capture videos or images of themselves with the birds.

Key takeouts

  • Pop-up is perfect for testing new experiences and engaging with consumers while the dust settles on COVID-19.
  • Making your brand central communities that have been built around shared values is a great way to fuel long-term loyalty.
  • Pop-up is perfect for giving consumers the exciting new stimulus they need in their lives.
  • Digital isn’t going to die and temporary, physical projects can be used to enhance your brand’s long-term omni-channel strategy.