This article is part of CMO.com’s November series about commerce and consumerism. Click here for more.
They’re only fleeting, but they’re oh-so-fashionable—and creative, too. Temporary storefronts, also knows as pop-up stores, have become some of the edgiest and eye-catching retail outlets in the Asia-Pacific region, designed by domestic and international brands to cause a stir.
Pop-up stores are good for moving all sorts of products and are economical to operate, according to Fung Business Intelligence. That’s especially appealing for small businesses, providing an opportunity to stand out in the marketplace, said Tokyo-based designer Duncan Shotton.
“Pop-up shops give smaller brands a chance to experiment, exhibit, and sell their work in a physical space at a low cost and connect with the community where they’re hosted,” Shotton told CMO.com.
They also are popular during the holiday season, often appearing without warning, creating hype on social media, and then disappearing after a few hours, days, or weeks of intense trading, according to Fung.
Last but not least, pop-ups are ushing in a new—maybe even wacky?—twist on retail innovation. With that as a backdrop, here’s our compilation of the region’s five wackiest pop-up offerings.
1. Japan’s Micro Pop-Up Shops
One Japanese retailer is showcasing the country’s innovative nature with a tiny pop-up concept for one of its biggest exports: Real Boy push pins. The Duncan Shotton Design Studio in Japan promoted the lineup of miniature Real Boy tacks using a remote-controlled storefront that zipped its way through the streets of Japan.
The pocket-sized store showcased teeny, tiny Pinocchio-themed tacks that, despite its huge opening day impact, met its fate after being run over by a trolley.
Shotton told CMO.com that the campaign was never expected to sell any product but instead draw attention from an international audience.
“Of course we wanted to highlight Real Boy Push Pins, our brand, and online shop, but we also sought to inspire people with the feeling of freedom that pop-up shops create,” he said.
2. Shanghai’s ‘Life Sucks’ Tea Shop
Sometimes all you need on a bad day is a good ear and a cup of cha, right? Shanghai-based food delivery service ele.me partnered with mobile app Netease News to create ORZ Cha—translated as “Life Sucks” —a pop-up tea shop in downtown Shanghai that opened for four days in April.
The tea shop targeted irreverent consumers whose “life is a total failure,” offering them an amusing and sarcastic reality tea-based tonic for their troubles:
- Oolong tea for those whose whole life is a total failure.
- Green tea for those who always work overtime without getting a pay raise.
- Black tea for those who are more than a little overweight.
“We have seen a growing popularity in pop-up stores, especially in big shopping malls in first-tier cities in China,” said Raina Li, a consultant at market research firm Kantar Retail in Shanghai, in an interview with the South China Morning Post.
3. China’s ‘Break-Up’ Flower Shop
With more short-term rental space becoming available in China, pop-ups offer brands a low-cost means of launching products and testing new markets. Case in point: Perhaps one of the more misleading, but equally wacky, pop-ups was Break Up, a one-day flower shop in China that materialised last Valentine’s Day. Cleverly playing on the fact that “break up” sounds similar to “I love you” in Mandarin, the store had people queued down the street.
The popularity of the Life Sucks tea shop and break-up flower shop reflects how foot traffic will follow once a shop targets a particular consumer group, Li added.
4. First Aid For Japan’s Ramen Addicts
Last year, fast-food fanatics in Tokyo could temporary indulge in hamburgers and ramen guilt-free thanks to Fast Food Aid, the “world's first supplement shop for fast foods.”
The laboratory-style pop-up provided tablets that made up for the missing nutrients in fast food, such as ramen, burgers, and pizza.
Fast Food Aid was designed by creative director Ikkyu Sato, along with art director Junya Sato, of design studio Kaibutsu. It was installed in Japan’s junk-food loving Harijuku district.
Last year, fast-food fanatics in Tokyo could temporary indulge in hamburgers and ramen guilt-free thanks to Fast Food Aid. 5. NYC Dorm Chef Hosts Tiny Restaurant Pop-Up
Jonah Reider, a student at Columbia University, in New York, is the mastermind behind a tiny, six-seat restaurant called Pith that he ran out of his dorm room.
“I opened my supper club in a dorm room and have held other pop-ups in the most bizarre spaces,” he said. “Limited available space doesn’t mean you can’t entertain and host social gatherings with friends.”
Pith amassed a waitlist of 4,000 people in New York within only a few months of opening, enabling Reider to take his concept to Sydney, Australia.
In a space large enough for two parked cars side-by-side, Reider has created a unique menu featuring Australian produce, such as eucalyptus, kangaroo, Manuka honey, lemon myrtle, and seafood.