Millennials Among the Greatest Customers for Pop-Up Stores

By Sarah Jackson on December 28, 2017

Millennials are increasingly turning to pop-up stores, in addition to traditional brick-and-mortar locations and online retailers, to do their shopping.

“The pop-up concept is mainly targeting the youth market, which likes the spontaneous nature of what is often regarded as a retail ‘event,’” according to Pop Up Showcase. The website references studies that show that those between 25 and 34 years old made the greatest expenditure at pop-up shops, followed by those between 18 and 24 years old.

Image by gonghuimin468 via Pixabay

Brit Pham, 22, purchased several prints from a doll-themed pop-up shop at the Union Square Holiday Market on Friday. She says the versatility of pop-up shops, from their location to the store layout and wide range of products, makes them popular among millennials.

“The millennial mindset is a little bit more ADD and a little bit more on-the-go, so the pop-up structure sort of works with that,” Pham said. “At the same time, when you have a pop-up, there’s more flexibility to make it look aesthetically interesting and make the whole concept of it really interesting. You’re starting from a blank slate, so that is more attractive than just going to the same old store every single time.”

From a seller’s standpoint, pop-ups do not just have variety on their side. They are also much easier on the wallet than physical stores.

Annie Watkins, 27, has run the booth for The Unemployed Philosophers Guild, which sells “highbrow novelty items,” at the Union Square Holiday Market for the past eight years.

The Unemployed Philosophers Guild does not operate out of its own brick-and-mortar store, although its products appear in museums, wholesale stores, and pop-up venues throughout the year. One reason Watkins believes the company and others might benefit from pop-up stores is the significantly lower price of rent since pop-up booths tend to be smaller than traditional stores and only open for business seasonally, not year-round.

“It’s hard in New York to pay for rent,” Watkins said. “It’s not worth it; it kills your margin.”

Kate Lord, another millennial shopper at the holiday market, thinks the appeal of pop-up shops is the spontaneity they offer that online shopping cannot. The vendor almost exclusively sells socks with patterns of different dog breeds.

“I think sometimes people are looking for something that’s not online,” Lord said. “So much of what we do is completely online and involved in your phone, and this gives you an opportunity to get out of your phone and just stumble upon a gift for someone. Shopping online is great, but you kind of have to know what you’re looking for.”

Among Lord’s finds were stationery, a figurine of Eleanor Roosevelt and French bulldog-patterned socks from Sabyloo, which sells socks featuring designs of over 100 different dog breeds.

Shoppers like Lord contribute to a demand for specialty items that is particularly high among millennials.

Approximately 43 percent of millennials and 33 percent of 17- to 20-year-olds, who immediately precede millennials in age, are very or extremely likely to purchase handmade items, according to a PwC holiday report cited in USA Today.

In her experience as a consumer, Watkins expected such results. Because of their small size, pop-up stores can often offer personalized or niche products, such as dog-themed socks and doll prints, while their big-name competitors cannot.

“It’s not like you’re walking into a TJ Maxx or Kmart, something where there’s a little bit of everything,” Watkins said. “It’s like no, you want this kind of thing, and you’re going to get to see a lot of this kind of style. I feel like pop-ups are more catered to you.”

Hi there! My name is Sarah, and I'm majoring in Journalism and English at NYU. In my spare time, I like to play the violin, explore the city, and discover more indie rock bands.

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