Pop-up shops are becoming as much a rite of summer as wide-brimmed Eric Javits straw hats and Gucci and Givenchy flip-flops, continuing to proliferate throughout beach communities and resorts as fashion and beauty brands look to capture that consumer who is in relaxation mode — and hopefully in the mood to spend.
This summer is no exception. In fact, real estate agents say that the market is one of the best in years, with few empty spaces in the Hamptons and beyond. Retail brokers said that prime storefronts on North Main Street and Newtown Lane in East Hampton are for the most part spoken-for, and that the situation in Southampton is similar.
“If you’re looking for a space, you’re a little late to the game,” said one broker. “[Landlords] would rather take any tenant than keep a street unactivated. They never leave stores vacant during the summer. That said, all the towns have fantastic tenants this summer. Rents have come down a little bit, but not a lot — it’s still a seasonal market.”
A spot check of online pop-up rentals found scant vacancies in Bridgehampton, Sag Harbor and Montauk. Several listings in East Hampton included a 1,000-square-foot space at 1 Main Street, $150 a square foot; a 3,700-square-foot unit at 130 North Main Street, $75 a square foot, and a 2,000-square-foot shop at 33 Newtown Lane, whose rent wasn’t disclosed. Prices are said to be comparable in Southampton, while rents in Sag Harbor, which has attracted home-goods retailers, are inching up. Another broker pegged occupancy costs at $100,000 for the season, which begins on Memorial Day and goes through Labor Day, but said there were spaces to be had for $50,000 to $70,000.
Pop-up shops have reached an inflection point as retailers and e-tailers take advantage of more reasonable occupancy costs, according to some experts. “Rents in the Hamptons aren’t unfair or too high or too low now. This is a great time to be in the Hamptons, but you have to have a plan,” said Andrea A. Abrams, founder and chief executive officer of Abrams Global, adding that rents are down from the highs of 2011 and 2012, and that there’s a willingness on the part of landlords to offer concessions or to compromise on certain lease terms.
“Stores are well-leased and spaces are full, in part due to expansions by existing tenants,” Abrams said, noting that Aerin Lauder added an East Hampton address to her existing Southampton store, while James Perse, who operates an East Hampton location, did the reverse, opening a unit in Southampton. Meanwhile, Michelle Farmer, who has a Bridgehampton store, unveiled a location in Southampton. Real estate musical chairs also stirs the summer blend, and there are a spate of brands that are new to beach communities such as Marni, St. Frank, Blue Carreon Home, Beautycounter and Everafter in East Hampton; Lladro, Southampton; and LoveShackFancy and Onda Beauty, Sag Harbor.
Club Monaco ceo Francis Pierrel opened a pop-up shop at 35 Main Street in Southampton in the spirit of partnership. The store, which will operate through Aug. 28, features a Diptyque shop-in-shop, along with ample space to host events and activations. In addition, Club Monaco collaborated with Ruschmeyers hotel, outfitting staff and for July 4, gifting Ruschmeyer x CM totes plus Club Monaco beach towels to guests.
Pierrel said Club Monaco approaches pop-ups from two distinct and deliberate perspectives, “those that live inside our partners’ spaces and those that are hosted within our four walls.” The latter, of which the Southampton pop-up is an example, are used to “reimagine and refresh our retail experience and provide something new to our customers. Those in partners’ spaces — such as the Ruschmeyers pop-up — aim to leverage brand synergies to engage with like-minded audiences.” As is the goal of many pop-ups, Pierrel hopes they “create unexpected experiences and foster a sense of discovery so consumers feel like they’re a part of something special and fleeting.”
“Because we’re leveraging our own retail spaces, as well as our partners’, we’re able to invest in strategic programming to support the pop-ups versus rent,” Pierrel said. “We’ve focused resources on engaging with the customer, which has proven to be an integral part of not only driving sales and marketing value, but also the ultimate currency — audience.”
Pierrel said there’s cross-shopping between brands in Southampton because “a requirement for all of our partnerships is like-mindedness, so we’re naturally creating a retail experience that both of our audiences want to consume. The goal is compatibility, not competition.”
The Ruschmeyers hookup is an example of a retailer gaining something valuable from a pop-up that’s not measured in sales. “It was important to us that the staff choose their own outfits to reflect their unique personal style,” Pierrel said. “Because we took that approach, customers have been able to develop a better understanding of not only our brand’s aesthetic, but also our place in the world. We’re creating context for our clothing and making the brand relatable and understandable to the customer.”
Retailers are keen to tap into consumers’ beach/resort mentality, where emotions such as excitement and euphoria are heightened by the setting; shoppers let their guard down and buy things that may have seemed too expensive at home. “Retailers see an opportunity to provide experiences that can only be achieved in a resort environment,” Abrams said. “The experience of leisure shopping and capturing customers while they’re relaxed and have time to browse and discover can be a very effective way to expand market share.”
Maris Collective ceo and founder Lee Ann Sauter operates 40 luxury fashion and lifestyle resort stores at five-star properties in Hawaii, Mexico and Anguilla, with a floating boutique bowing in Bora Bora in November. “It’s a very special business skill,” she said of the format. “There’s definitely the seasonality. We know when to bring things in. We have a very high sell-through at certain times of year and flex out of things and then flex back in. We have exclusive products that are timeless. In the slow season, we have a different type of client coming from another part of the world. We’re probably the only people that are the masters of that.”
One of the keys to Maris’ business model is “lots of intelligence about customers that we get from our hotel partners. We know when they’re coming and who they are. Our job is to blow away their expectations with the best brands in the world and new and unexpected things. They’re on vacation. From an economic standpoint, we put small footprints together that reflect a sense of place. We have one of the highest dollar-per-square-foot performance in the retail industry. We know what to tell brands to do to drive our bottom line and theirs. At Marais, we’re master curators and put into buckets [more recognizable brands] and unexpected things and a ton of exclusive collaborations. We’re focusing on the partnerships and are not killing the creative.” Prices at Maris stores range from $100 to $80,000.
Sauter said everybody wants to capture resort customers during peak resort season in November and December. “March and April, around Easter, all of our doors around the world are busy. It’s really the summer where you have extremely hot weather in Mexico and low hotel rates, and Palm Beach, where all the snowbirds come in and out. Retailers at the Royal Poinciana have to suffer through that. Right now, we’re focused on our beach stores. Besides Palm Beach, we have shops in Turks and Caicos, the Caribbean and the French Riviera.”
It isn’t Port Grimaud beach on the Riviera, but Martha’s Vineyard has beaches with gorgeous dunes and an up-and-coming shopping district. Orchard Mile cofounder Julia Wetherell LeClair considered chic summer destinations such as the Hamptons but decided on Martha’s Vineyard because she grew up there and owns a home there with her husband. Knowing the community gives her a suntanned leg up on other seasonal retailers. “I know the demographic,” she said. “The Hamptons has great shopping, but you have to create noise amongst all the other things happening.”
Martha’s Vineyard has wealth and a lot of brands such as Lilly Pulitzer, Vineyard Vines and J. McLaughlin. “I selected all the brands and merchandise,” Wetherell LeClair said. “It’s a reflection of my style. It’s a bit of a concept store in that we’re switching out brands and inventory every couple of weeks. If you’re someone who’s here all summer, you could go to a store in June and see the same inventory in August. That’s not happening here. This is a really smart model and it makes sense for us because we don’t own the inventory, and we’re able to create really cool in-store experiences. We also have technology like a big iPad kiosk where people can explore our web site and if an item’s not in stock, they can check online. Also you’re getting your product so quickly. We do free shipping and free returns.”
Orchard Mile is featuring a Cos Bar station with an edited selection of skin-care, makeup and hair-care products, including collections from Tata Harper Skincare, By Terry Makeup and Ouai haircare. “I love what Julia and Jennie [Baik] are doing with Orchard Mile,” said Cos Bar ceo David Olsen. “They’ve been an excellent digital affiliate partner, and we are excited to be their beauty arm as they make a foray into the physical world. The Martha’s Vineyard pop-up makes sense for Cos Bar on many levels. We can bring some of our great brands to the area, and our Cos Bar service to the neighborhood, broaden our brand awareness, and test the market for a potential permanent store. We’re all about omnichannel, and this opportunity leverages that, too, by serving clients where they are. We believe that the Martha’s Vineyard customer is definitely a Cos Bar client.”
Olivela, an e-commerce site with a charitable bent — the brand aims to donate a percentage of each purchase to organizations that support girls’ education, such as the Malala Fund, which advocates for a world where every girl can have 12 years of schooling — opened an 850-square-foot pop-up shop at 25 Centre Street in neighboring Nantucket, Mass. “We offer a highly curated selection of brands, including a lot of color and novelty, and a lot of things you won’t see anywhere else,” said chief merchant Kristen Sosa, citing brands such as Dior, Stella McCartney, Fendi, Aquazzura and Giuseppe Zanotti. A projection wall highlights Olivela’s mission and charitable partners, while an Instagram wall shows in real time the contributions of Nantucket consumers and how their purchases translate into education for underprivileged girls. Sales of Frame Le High Straight Feather jeans, $289, for example, will buy seven days of school for a girl in need. Said Sosa, “We’re at over 35,000 days of school or the equivalent.”
Sandra Jordan, who in February became ceo of Lladro’s U.S. division, has a mandate to turn the business around. A pop-up lifestyle concept store in Southampton is a platform for relaunching Lladro, which is known for its porcelain figurines, as a luxury brand. “The Hamptons brings together art, fashion and food,” said Jordan, who has held roles at Calvin Klein, Kenneth Cole and Salvatore Ferragamo. “We’re launching a new jewelry collection in the fall at our Madison Avenue store and eventually we want to sell it at Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue. We closed our Rodeo Drive and Miami Design District stores. We’re trying to work our way to profitability and create a new awareness and show Lladro in a new light. Our customer on Madison Avenue is coming into the store in Southampton. As far as economics, sales at the pop-up are starting to pick up. I look at Lladro pieces as art, so it’s an investment. Consumers will come back and purchase and they’ll spread the word.”
“We’re in the pop-up for three months, July through September,” Sari Sloane said of the 6,000-square-foot shared pop-up in Bridgehampton she and husband Haro Keledjian opened for Everafter, their one-stop shop for kids, and The Westside, the casual L.A.-inspired retail concept for Everafter kids’ moms. “We’ve seen a lot of traffic, and we’ve really had great days. It’s exceeded our expectations,” Sloane said. “We’re doing a lot of collaborations for our brands. It’s great for traffic, great for business and great for marketing. We’re selling a lot of merchandise. It will be a win-win.”
The couple, who are both former Intermix cofounders, addressed a void in the children’s wear market, and identified white space in women’s wear. They had their hands full in May, opening stores for both Everafter and The Westside in Brentwood, Calif., but when the Bridgehampton space was presented to them, they pounced. Leandre Medine and Vanessa Triana hosted the pop-up’s opening.
“My husband literally opened the store in less than 30 days,” Sloane said. “It was a miracle. We’re definitely getting a lot of new customers, people on vacation from New York City, and we’re able to service our regular customers. We’re using the back of the store for collaborations. We’ll have one with Rockets of Awesome at the end of August. We’re definitely are going to open additional stores. We want to continue our West Coast expansion. We want to open another location in L.A., and we’re going to open The Westside in TriBeCa.”
“Pop-ups aren’t just in stores, they’re in restaurants and hotels, and brands are opening pop-ups in stores owned by other retailers,” Abrams said. “The reason to do a seasonal pop-up shop is for branding and activations. If you’re getting a lot of exposure through the pop-up shop, and you’re able to take that to your home market, you’ve been successful.”