The Aha Moments Behind Herschel Supply’s Pop-Up Success

March 3, 2016

Pop-ups and short term rentals have become a legitimate means of testing product, generating buzz, building brand awareness, and driving sales for business of nearly every size.

So, regardless of where you fall on the spectrum when it comes to selling exclusively online or in-store or if you are somewhere in the middle with a mix of sales channels, pop-ups can be that perfect opportunity to try something different.

To illustrate how brands are taking advantage of temporary retail, we sat down with Herschel Supply, the high-quality backpack manufacturer, to discuss their retail strategies, glean their wisdom, and talk shop about their pop-up strategy.

You’ve held pop-ups in LA and NYC, as well as your past product launches in Vancouver – can you tell us some of the highlights?

The magical part for us is being able to have a direct line to our consumers – being able to tell our story, to give our story a physical presence. We are a lifestyle brand, not a commodities based brand. Yes, people use our backpacks because they need them for school or hiking or for other utility purposes…but most people have more than one. And that’s because they like who we are as a company and the story we tell. That’s the highlight for us – occasional pop-ups provide the opportunity to tell a more interactive, intimate story through a temporary experience. So, everything we do comes down to telling a story – building a story with our community.

Photo by: Brandon Shigeta

What type of occasions make for the best pop-up shops?

It’s seasonal for us – but I think more than anything, when the right opportunity comes up we go for it. When the space is available and it’s right for us we take advantage of it. It’s also about finding the right partners. We are all about finding great people to work with. So rather than occasion based pop-ups, we look for three critical things: the right space, the right partners, and the right time. If we have these three things we know we can activate.

How do you generate buzz?

While we learn something new with each event and pop-up, one thing that has worked best for us is finding incredible partners and tapping into their like-minded existing communities. Collaborations like this can be so powerful. For example, we worked with Extra Butter in New York earlier this year – they have huge following. For this same pop-up, we also collaborated Street Dreams contributors, who provided imagery for the store. This team has a huge following and an even stronger network – something we were able to tap into. Working with partners is a great way to create a more comprehensive experiences. Learn to leverage other audiences to help grow yours when you can.

How do you design your space?

White space – don’t overstimulate the consumer. For us, we don’t ever want to look at a window and see too much going on. Do one thing and do it well. Have a focus and design around that – or even one item. For example, we did a pop-up collaboration with Coca Cola  in NYC – we designed it around one main element and that element was a cube in the middle and everything supported that. Or for another pop-up, City Limitless, we had a video wall and that was the main element for the shop – we worked everything else around that.

Overall, we always try to keep our experience cohesive  – keep it minimal. Our mantra: We have one message to tell someone and that’s what we focus on. What will they remember when they walk out the door?

How do pop-ups fit into your overall retail strategy?

Pop-ups are supportive elements to our retail strategy and key elements in our brand building and marketing strategy. At Herschel Supply, we sell a lifestyle and the way we do that is by sharing our story. Our pop-ups have allowed us to draw attention the brand and the great places we are sold in. For us, they aren’t about moving product or racking up big sales. For us, it’s marketing dollars. Do you want to spend it on bus ads or pop-ups? That’s the type of decisions we evaluate. With pop-ups, we’ve boosted overall sales and created a new brand experience for existing and new audiences. You are there – you are relevant.