Why pop-up shops are surging during the COVID-19 pandemic

by William Stutzman

The American spirit is nothing if not resilient. In a bid to make life smoother and restore some semblance of normalcy, as the public and private sectors battle the health and economic effects of COVID-19, physical retail and restaurant alternatives are proliferating across the U.S. These new retail and restaurant formats offer a smart solution, allowing more consumers to quickly get the items they need for themselves and their families while continuing to follow stay-at-home advisories.

What are pop-up stores?
As their description more or less implies, a pop-up shop serves as a short-term retail location that business owners use to sell more of their products and/or services. Over the past decade, online retailers have cornered the pop-up market, and in so doing, have grown their brands by advertising to a broader array of customers via word of mouth and social media campaigning. However, in more recent years, an increasing number of brick-and-mortar stores are taking advantage of this sales method as well to improve customer relationships and grow their presence in an ultra-competitive industry that is in a constant state of flux. Mobile point-of-sale systems using high-speed internet access have fueled the proliferation of pop-up shops.

As numerous media outlets have reported, pop-ups have become particularly popular during the COVID-19 crisis. For example, the international convenience store chain 7-Eleven recently opened its very first pop-up store at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas. Hospital and healthcare employees tend to work long hours normally, but their busy schedules have ramped up in several cities severely impacted by COVID-19, which thus far have mainly been urban areas with high-density populations. Pop-up stores have provided doctors, nurses and hospital staff a way to quickly and conveniently get the items they need while they’re at work rather than driving to a brick-and-mortar grocery store, many of which have reduced their hours of operation to devote more time to stocking.

Shop and purchase simplicity
In addition to the grab-and-go convenience that pop-up stores offer from a sheer merchandise perspective, mobile POS and internet networks enable customers to purchase goods and services using simplified and effective technology as well, be it via credit cards, mobile wallets, debit cards or their handheld devices.

The POS system set up at Children’s Medical Center by 7-Eleven is especially convenient because hospital staff can simply swipe their badges to pay during checkout.

Joe DePinto, president and CEO of the nearly 90-year-old convenience store conglomerate, said in a press release that he couldn’t be happier to make life just a little bit easier for the people who are saving lives each and every day.

“The doctors, nurses and care teams at Children’s Health are true heroes,” DePinto explained. “When Children’s Health asked us to provide their team members convenient access to essentials during this unprecedented time, our team rose to meet the challenge, opening this first-of-its-kind store in less than two weeks. We are so proud to serve those on the front line of this pandemic.”

Restaurants also launching pop-up shops
Another industry rocked by COVID-19 is the restaurant sector. While most eateries remain open and offer takeout as well as delivery, dining rooms have been shut down to reduce the spread of the highly infectious contagion. As a result, a number of restaurateurs are making the best of it by launching pop-up shops of their own, converting their dining areas into temporary marketplaces, where customers can come to buy refrigerator staples like eggs and milk and produce like fruits and vegetables.

They have become particularly commonplace in San Antonio. As reported by KSAT, at least three area restaurants have jumped aboard the pop-up shop bandwagon, including La Panderia, Sangria on the Berg, and Mi Tierra Cafe and Bakery.

Mi Terra’s Pete Cortez told KSAT his POS infrastructure and convertible location helped him make the switch relatively seamlessly, all while maintaining much of his staff.

“We were trying to think about all the things that we already had in inventory and things that we could put out on the shelves,” Cortez explained. “We’ve been very fortunate to be able to stay stocked every day, but the other blessing, really for us, is that we have over 700 employees. This has given us an opportunity for everybody to come back to work.”

Some restaurants are complementing their services by taking their business on the road — literally. As reported by Forbes, because typically bustling areas of the city aren’t as fraught with activity as usual, restaurateurs are taking their food trucks to where the people are these days, including residential neighborhoods and more rural locations.

“Pivoting is part of food truck life,” B.J. Lofback, owner of Funk Seoul Brother in Nashville, told Forbes.

For an update on how the coronavirus pandemic has affected convenience services, click here.

Posted in Post Covid Pop-Ups.