Making the World Better One Pop-Up Store at a Time

February 6, 2017

When you hear the term “pop-up shop,” you likely imagine a stylish boutique or another high-end offshoot for brands. But more organizations are seeing pop ups as a way to create a positive impact in their communities one retail experience at a time.

From fighting food waste to exposing the Internet’s dark underbelly to changing society’s perspective of violence against women, more organizations are using temporary retail to build buzz around their respective causes.

It’s no wonder even nonprofits want to leverage the growing pop-up market. Data from an Independent Retailer survey pegged the market for pop-up stores, festivals, crafts, and classes at close at $10 billion in 2015. And 39% of the respondents of that same survey said that they visit pop-up shops to find “unique products or services.”

It’s just this popularity and excitement that inspired Juniper Park/TBWA, a Toronto-based design and advertising agency, to work with thisopenspace to create a pop-up space as a vehicle for social change.

Juniper Park partnered with the YWCA on a pro-bono campaign in November 2016 taking aim at victim-blaming culture when it comes to sexual assault.

The pop-up store, which was launched the same week as the International Day of Elimination of Violence Against Women, focused on setting up a pseudo retail space aptly titled Blamé. Guests were exposed to items like “Set a trap lipstick” and a “Sum tight dress” to point out the absurdity of blaming sexual assault on makeup or clothing the victim wore at the time.

“We came up with the idea of Blamé — a store where you can see all of the things women get blamed for when they’re sexually assaulted,” said Laura Simhoni, Copywriter at Juniper Park who was involved in the campaign’s creation.

Image Credit: Juniper Park Image Credit: Juniper Park

The pop-up’s items included quotes from commentators online and elsewhere that created a stark contrast between the reality of violence against women and the tendency to blame victims for assault.

“A lot of people who blame the victim don’t even realize how much trauma it’s causing in the victim’s life. They’re not even doing it consciously at that point,” said Jennifer Szilagyi, Art Director at Juniper Park, who also had a hand in creating Blamé. “We just wanted to make it shocking to show that this is something that’s happening every single day online and that this is language that is not appropriate or acceptable.”

This 1950s way of thinking isn’t relevant when it comes to society’s treatment of rape victims — and Jennifer, Laura, and the Juniper Park/YWCA team created this exhibit to grab people’s attention and bring this issue to light. And they worked with thisopenspace to find a multi-purpose space that would suit this unique need.

“The space we got turned out to be amazing because it had a social space and a retail space,” Simhoni said. “The retail space was so important to this campaign because all of the quotes of victim blaming that we pulled all related to a piece of clothing or alcohol. So we needed a space that would display those items really well.”


And Juniper Park isn’t the only organization leaning on temporary retail to draw attention to social causes.

Later in 2017, New York-based celebrity chef Dan Barber will team up with chefs across the pond to produce a European version of his WastED pop-up restaurant. In order to change consumers’ thinking about food that is traditionally thrown away (think kale ribs and fish heads), he will create a menu entirely of these ingredients. So, while foodies are enjoying a high-end meal from one of America’s top culinary artists, Barber is also highlighting the sin of wasting perfectly useable ingredients.

Similarly, the Tactical Technology Collective launched a pop-up exhibition in late 2016 that resembled a riff off Apple’s Genius Bar. Known as The Glass Room, the exhibit looked like a high-end retail space where one might purchase the latest high-tech gadgets. Instead, the glistening white space exposed unsuspecting guests to the darker side of the web.

Image Credit: Vice

Image Credit: Vice

For example, a Data Detox Bar featured a Newstweek device which manipulates online news headlines that you don’t like or don’t fit your narrative into ones that are tailored to your sensibilities. Another area provided several tomes to peruse, titled “Forgot Your Password?” The series of books revealed the 4.6 million passwords leaked by Linkedin in 2012 — a shockingly effective reminder of the illusion of personal privacy online.

Although pop-up shops are a non-traditional way to garner attention for a respective cause, that’s precisely the appeal. Shock sells — and as demonstrated, agencies and nonprofits are using shock value to get people on board with their causes.

“The way that we did this with Blamé as a fashion line coming to Toronto was so that people would walk in and be shocked by it,” Simhoni said. “It’s hard to shock people anymore. And we wanted to come at victim blaming in a totally different way so that people will really think twice the next time that they open their mouth about rape victim.”

Looking for space for your next pop-up shop? Don’t worry; we got you. Take a peek a pop-up spaces near you right here.