“What’s that?” From the window inside the bus, I pointed to a line of people curling around the street corner of a downtown building. The individual beside me looked up from her reading. “A pop up shop.” As her eyes drifted back to her page, I made a mental note to google the term when I got home.
Pop up shops are retail sites that open for a day to create a buzz about a line of merchandise. Apparently, retailers imagine if the event is temporary, customers will focus better. Ephemeral is a new marketing strategy.
Ephemeral doesn’t apply to my neighborhood mall. Like a mausoleum, it sits largely vacant, absent even of bodies. The shops along the corridors offer items similar to those found in Pop up shops: clothing, electronics, jewelry. But they don’t provide an experience. Even high-end retailers are enduring a malaise. Tiffany, and other purveyors of luxury goods, can no longer afford to wait for one percenters to drop by. Instead, they entice with “all-expense paid” shopping events located at exotic destination. Think about a jewelry show planned for a château in France’s wine country. Or, dream of a moonlit fashion extravaganza in the Sahara.
The guest list can be large, say a thousand of the world’s wealthiest clients. Or, it can be small. The goal is to provide an experience with which no travel agent can compete.
True, the people being seduced can arrange these venues for themselves. But are they capable of Tiffany’s flare? Can they create close encounters of a material kind so uncommon, patrons will brag about the event for years? The jeweler can. The quid pro quo is that lots of money will change hands. (“Experience Wars,” by Harcio Silva, TownandCountry, October, 2018, pg. 167.)
Not every encounter need be luminous. Unique is the objective. Consider the retailer who sold a boatload of jewels to a customer by flying him to Rome to dine at a fourth floor walk-up for a meal that cost $30. According to the retailer, the cook was an octogenarian nonna who made her own pasta, “the best, the client would ever eat.” (Ibid, pg. 167.) Experience Wars,” by Harcio Silva, TownandCountry, October, 2018, pg. 167.)
Whether it was the best pasta or not isn’t the point. What matters are the bragging rights. “Oh yes, I’ve dined at Versailles many times. But have you tasted the pasts at …”
If unique is the ultimate objective, Tiffany might consider a pop up event in Yemen. Imagine fine dining in a surgical tent while a child has shrapnel removed from its arms and legs. Guests could fly home with one of those delicious little Tiffany boxes, each containing bits of the bloody metal. That would be novel.