No brand recognition? No problem, says this retailing center | Crain's

No brand recognition? No problem, says this retailing center

From Dior to Gucci and Prada, luxury brands and retailers usually head straight to the Strip to showcase new goods. But homegrown entrepreneurs with tight budgets are finding their place in Vegas – farther west at Downtown Summerlin – where fledgling retailers can even do a test run with their own pop-up.

That’s where Christina Ivanov, owner of Joeleene, first ventured into pop-ups. Her business was once strictly an e-commerce business selling women's clothing and accessories – with the occasional vendor stint at local fairs and festivals. But early this year she learned a Downtown Summerlin space was vacant and jumped at the opportunity to open a temporary shop in May.

"Through the pop-up, it has been so much easier to build clientele versus e-commerce. It's a loyal clientele, people who actively come back to the store looking for what's new," said Ivanov, who’s launching a second pop-up – Jojo's Children's Boutique – on Oct. 19 at Downtown Summerlin.

The Downtown Summerlin shopping and entertainment complex opened in 2014 in the heart of the master-planned Downtown Summerlin community. It’s a self-contained development of retail shops and restaurants that hosts a wide variety of events including a weekly farmers market, wine walks, festivals, outdoor yoga, and live music.

Local retailers like Lucie Grimm say the development has been welcoming to pop-up concepts, hosting them at all different stages. Grimm's Apothec Living started with a stall at the weekly farmers market, then moved into a kiosk in one of the common areas and is now set to open a 900-square-foot permanent store on Nov. 3.

And Jessica Galindo, who opened her first Leather Couture storefront in Container Park, moved onto Downtown Summerlin with a holiday pop-up that led to a new permanent home for the brand.

The benefits of pop-ups go both ways, says Jeanie Haddox, specialty leasing manager for Downtown Summerlin.

"It's a great way for us to test someone in the market without having to make a five- to 10- year commitment," Haddox said.

When one store closes or relocates and another is set to open, there might be a window of three weeks or even three months that the space is available, Haddox explains. Downtown Summerlin likes to take advantage of this downtime with these temporary "engagement pieces."

Pop-ups are a great way for small businesses to promote themselves and test the waters, and they enable larger companies to promote a product launch or test a concept without making a large commitment, according to Haddox.

Even global retailers like Victoria's Secret benefit from the pop-up model. Last summer, Victoria's Secret PINK's Summer Bra Tour came through Downtown Summerlin with the PINK Bus and allowed shoppers to be the first to try out a new bra style from the brand.

"The advantages were in promoting and testing a new product while creating something experiential for their customer base," Haddox said. "It also drove sales and traffic to their store here. National companies are doing [pop-ups] now because they have to engage with their customer base within the market." 

Even when concepts pop up at Downtown Summerlin but don't go on to sign a long-term lease, the business still benefits. The Cuppa Coffee Bar received some buzz with its four-month pop-up while still operating two other locations in the Las Vegas Valley.

"Every store should go into a pop-up situation with a plan to use that pop-up as advertising and to create feedback for future business growth," according to Haddox.

The space vacated by the Cuppa will be the home of a third Makers & Finders location, a coffee house and Latin comfort food restaurant.

Makers & Finders opened its first location in the 18b Arts District in 2014 and began popping up with a kiosk at the downtown art and music festival Life is Beautiful in 2015. In 2016, the restaurant signed with the design-and-build firm MAKE studios to create a more permanent kiosk, a self-sufficient movable piece of industrial design it used at the festival for the last two years and will now move to Neonopolis for a full-time permanent location on Fremont.

"The pop-ups allowed us to spread brand awareness, and also show our versatility, that we can do off-site events as well," said Makers & Finders co-owner Josh Molina. 

"They also gave me a lot of insight and perspective on our target market. I learned a lot about my business model from my pop-ups," according to Molina, who hosted guest chef pop-ups at his original location. Makers & Finders at Neonopolis and Downtown Summerlin are both set to open in November.

Still, pop-ups are a lot of work, and business newbies should be prepared to do some heavy lifting before they launch one, retailers say.

“It is a little more upkeep [than an e-commerce business],” said Ivanov, who plans on discussing a permanent location with Downtown Summerlin after the holiday season. "But in the end, it's worth it to be able to build the brand."

October 17, 2017 - 4:05pm