For some time now pop-ups have been used by large brands for guerrilla marketing purposes, disrupting customer journeys and forcing their way into consumers’ consideration sets. Now we are seeing another significant development: major retailers offering brands in-store pop-up space which competes directly with traditional locations.

Appear Here, the online market place for short term retail space, recently launched the “In Residence” initiative, giving brands the opportunity to set up shop inside major retailers. For now, the offer is limited, but we believe that this is a trend that will continue and grow.

For retailers, the key benefit is the sense of novelty and interaction that comes with regularly refreshed pop-ups in an increasingly online-dominated market, and the added footfall this can attract.

For brands, the relationship is more complicated.

Appear Here advertises rental prices of between 21p and 70p per foot per day. This looks attractive when compared to other sites in Soho which can be as much as £3 or £4. For a chance to grab the attention of the 400,000+ visitors a week, it could be a remarkably good deal.

But with great opportunities comes great responsibility, and there are some important considerations to take into account. For speciality coffee start-up Black Sheep Coffee, this model was a great success. Two years ago the brand was running pop-ups across London, including an espresso bar inside Urban Outfitters’ Oxford Street store. “They were fantastic,” co-founder Eirik Holth told us, “they were so amenable to hear our ideas”. At the same time, he was careful to emphasise that “it’s not as clear cut as ‘it’s great or it’s bad’ to be in a retail store. For our particular business, the challenge was more to drive crucial start-up revenues as well as to contribute to the Urban Outfitters’ shopper experience.”

For those whose primary goal is driving brand awareness, far more work is required to ensure the partnership works. First, there needs to be a clear customer overlap between the specific store, the retailer’s positioning, and the brand itself. For instance, the disproportionate number of tourists in a flagship central London store may misrepresent the opportunity to grow awareness with a target consumer group. Second, the brand values for both retailer and brand need to align or the brand risks appearing opportunistic and lacking authenticity.

In retail as in life, our advice is ensure there is true compatibility before popping the question.

Michael Little