by Elisabeth King

The nature of retail is evolving rapidly. Experiences have assumed starring roles and the Scentre Group, which operates Westfield shopping centres, is leading the way. One of the world’s largest shopping centre managers and owners, the company has a portfolio and investments in 39 shopping centres across Australia and New Zealand, covering over 11,600 retail outlets. Six years ago, our pop-up business was in its infancy, says George Tsoukalas, Head of Brandspace Retail at Scentre Group, but today it is an integrated part of the mix in creating experiences for retailers, brands and consumers.

Sophisticated Business Tool

In the past few years, pop-up stores have morphed from being novelties to a sophisticated business tool. Retailers and brands are using them as vehicles for testing locations and markets, launching new products and promoting brand identity. Pop-ups are also great drivers of traffic and buzz, says Tsoukalas. “They are great for long-term retail tenants and shopping centres because they offer consumers personal experiences and contact they can’t find anywhere else. The right brand in the right place also boosts a shopping centre’s credibility and provides opportunities for owners to create change”. 

There has to be an innovative edge though and pop-ups shouldn’t directly compete with existing retailers. From a beauty perspective, brands like L’Occitane, Crabtree & Evelyn and Avon can test distribution and see whether a particular location could be suitable for a long-term presence or promote a new launch, says Tsoukalas. “At Westfield Parramatta, for example, which has a foot fall of over 550,000 people per week, a Dior pop-up focused on a fragrance to reach out to more consumers. Over the past two to three years, M.A.C has reached out beyond obvious locations such as Bondi Junction and the CBD”. 

Luxury Brands Become Leading Players

Luxury fashion pop-ups have become a major trend at Westfield centres over the past 12 months, says Tsoukalas. “Brands have to be where potential shoppers are these days and not expect them to come to them. Our job is to educate the market and we have worked with Louis Vuitton, Dior Homme, Prada and Bulgari over the past year or so. Westfield has an extraordinary emphasis on community and a laser focus on fashion, beauty, food, lifestyle and entertainment”. 

An increasing number of upscale car brands are realising the benefit of bringing their latest models into high footfall centres and this makes a great mix with luxury beauty and fashion brands, says Tsoukalas. “Recent research reveals that a high percentage of all major car purchase decisions – over 85 per cent – are made by women. Displaying a new car away from the often intimidating atmosphere of a traditional car showroom puts major auto marques at the centre of where potential customers spend their time”.

Tsoukalas and his team have worked with leading brands such as BMW, Citroen and Peugeot.

“In the future, if this fast-growing trend continues, consumers could buy a car, a fragrance, a new pair of shoes and take in a movie under one roof ”.

Getting The Word Out-Increasing Visibility

Regional centres have become hot property as leading cities such as Newcastle and Wollongong have become lifestyle hubs. “Sephora has a great strategy of reaching out to such booming centres as Erina Fair on the NSW Central Coast. Consumers can test and buy beauty products in a fun environment and this attitude is what pop-up stores are all about these days. They have moved on from just selling stuff and are a prime way to integrate into the entertainment and lifestyle precincts that shopping centres have become. The days are long gone when everyone and anyone could sign up for a pop-up and brands have to offer something unique and surprising”.

Social media is very important to the success of a pop-up, says Tsoukalas. “Instagram and Facebook are widely used to get the word out and promote products. WeChat, the huge Chinese social media platform, has become increasingly important because of the local Chinese market and the continuing boom in Chinese tourist numbers. On Instagram, we also do a lot of B2B activity”. 

In Australia and overseas, an increasing number of online-only retailers and digital players, even tech giants like Facebook and Amazon, are discovering that a presence in shopping malls is a critical factor in communicating with consumers in their everyday lives. “A physical pop-up is a great way for online sales companies to get their brands out there and drive visibility and sales or see whether a bricks-and-mortar location is viable for them”, says Tsoukalas. “Today’s consumers are not only looking to buy hard-to-find goods, they also like trendy brands with a point of difference. We worked with The Daily Edited, the Australian personalised leather and accessories brand, which appeals to both trends and it was a huge success. The brand opened its first flagship store in Westfield Sydney Centre in November”. 

Tsoukalas would like to see more major beauty multinationals promoting core and portfolio brands in fast-growing shopping centres like the refurbished Whitford City in WA, Chermside in Queensland, which is Australia’s second largest shopping centre after Chadstone, Liverpool and Hurstville in Sydney. “Brands like L’Oréal-owned NYX Cosmetics would gain huge traction with curated pop-ups in the right location”. 

The Scentre Group has built supportive and close relationships with its core retailers, says Tsoukalas. “We also have a true understanding of who our customers are and our retail expertise allows us to tailor experiences that not only have a powerful effect, but also help consumers get the most value from them. A temporary pop-up is a low-risk retail investment to test a new product or concept or create real buzz and that’s why the trend is going from strength to strength”. 

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