April 3, 2012

Pop-ups, the Internet Change Retail Design

In a recent


panel discussion, four retail designers discussed the impact technology and the economy has had on design, with one of the most powerful results being a trend for pop-up (or non-permanent) stores to become the norm in a brand’s retail mix. The panelists discussed the evolving nature of retail design, focusing on the idea of flexible space, eye-catching displays and how the look and feel of a brick and mortar store should be aligned with its online presence.

Interior Design

articles editor Annie Block moderated the forum, entitled “From Ground Up to Pop Up”, which was held in the auditorium at the

House of Bumble

in NYC’s meatpacking district. Panelists included David Ashen, president of

d-ash design



co-founders Faris Al-Shathir and Gregory Sparks, and Diana Revkin, managing director of retail at

TPG Architecture

, who replaced Courtney Kemper of Tiffany & Co who was unable to attend at the last minute. In one of his many redesigns of


stores around the world, David Ashen transformed the 600-square foot Hong Kong store by putting more product on the floor, organizing the space more efficiently and adding romance to the equation. The result: It’s now the chain’s number one in sales volume, pulling in about $3.4 million annually.

“It’s the idea of theater,” said Ashen, who thinks the number of physical stores may decline due to internet shopping, but they will never disappear totally. “Customers still want to touch and feel things,” he said, but added that in today’s world they will also want things to change more frequently. Ashen took this concept and ran with it when he designed the 1,000-square foot mobile pop-up unit for Jay-Z’s


collection. A budget of $1 million resulted in custom furniture, a sleek Art Deco feel and collapsible sides for this extravagant pop-up that toured with the artist. Working on far tighter budgets that generally range from $5,000 to $20,000, Boffo’s Faris Al-Shathir and Gregory Sparks look to get most of their space donated for their pop-up installations. According to both, the impact of pop-up stores will be far reaching for both retail and design. ” Pop-ups are changing the culture of architecture and retail,” says Sparks who met Al-Shathir in college where they both came up with the idea to foster collaboration and awareness between designers, artists and communities.  They usually select brands to highlight, says Al-Shathir, that “don’t have standing retail units.”  The donated space is usually repurposed many times over the course of several months, with new installations being built in about a week and remaining open for up to two weeks.

The fully engaged audience listened as the panelists discussed retail design's changing landscape.

The fully engaged audience listened as the panelists discussed retail design’s changing landscape.

Although she didn’t have to work on as tight a deadline, TPG’s Revkin did have to deal with the last-minute addition of converting the asphalt-sloped roof at

Eataly New York

to a glass-enclosed dining area with a retractable cover. “Of course the schedule didn’t change and the budget didn’t change,” said Revkin to understanding groans in the audience. She added that the rooftop addition also meant hauling 40 tons of material up to the rooftop with a crane last winter—not a pleasant task during what was a very harsh winter. Revkin called the transformation of the old Toy Building space at

200 Fifth Avenue

into the current 50,000-square foot mecca of Italian food a collaborative effort that assured its success. She compared the resulting space to an  “old-fashioned food hall”, with flexible space that can be quickly transformed. “Retail space has to be more flexible,” she said, noting that the selling floor should be able to accommodate events and other types of programs.  The internet has changed the way people shop and has impacted their expectations, said Revkin, but added: “People still want the brick and mortar experience, especially in apparel… you just have to give them more.”

—Photos by

Teresa Kruszewski

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