Business

More cheddar, faster: Top artists embrace pop-up stores

For musicians like Kanye, Drake and Justin Bieber, pop-up shops sell items related to their latest albums or tours and give fans an interactive experience where they can immerse themselves in the artist’s brand. These shops can bring in significant cash for the artist.

'A win-win situation': Eliminate the middleman, create a buzz, clean up and leave town

Kanye West opened 21 stores worldwide to sell clothing based on his latest album, The Life of Pablo. Celebrities are embracing pop-up shops, where they can make a lot of money quickly. (Associated Press)

Some of the world's hottest music acts are turning pop-up stores into a new craze, drawing fans and attention to their projects.

Kanye had one, Justin Bieber, Frank Ocean and Drake, too

Pop-up shops are short-term stores that quickly arrive, then disappear within a few days or weeks, usually in big centres like Toronto, London and New York.

Businesses from independent stores to major brands like Target and Microsoft have used the format to tease the launch of full-fledged stores or products in Canada and around the world.

For musicians, pop-up shops sell items related to their latest albums or tours and give fans an interactive experience where they can immerse themselves in the artist's brand.

"It's a really good way to build up hype around a forthcoming project or album and let your fans and the media know that an album is imminently about to drop," says Kenneth McLeod, music and culture associate professor at the University of Toronto Scarborough.

"It sort of creates this fear-of-missing-out buzz that adds to the hype around the album. It's sort of a win-win situation for the artists."

These pop-up shops aren't just promotional tools. They can bring in significant cash for the artist, especially when their items are sold at a high markup.

Kanye, for example, boasted of making $1 million in two days from his New York The Life of Pablo pop-up shop in March.

More of that million goes into his pocket than if he were to sell his clothes through a traditional retailer, because he's cutting out the wholesaler and retailer.

"Other than the cost of the pop-up store, there's a lot of money to be made," marketing expert Tony Chapman says. "You're benefiting from the fact that it's limited edition; you can charge a premium price for it."

Celebrities also find pop-up shops attractive because they can control their brand and create scarcity for products, which can be interpreted as popularity Chapman says.

"If you really want to grow your brand, the best way to do it is to control all the aspects," he says. "Scarcity is very important because supply and demand dictates your ability to command a price and people's interest in it."

Scalpers have also tried to cash in. Their prices for Frank Ocean's magazine, which he gave away at his pop-up shop, were so exorbitant that his mom felt the need to go to social media to ask fans to "Just hang tight a sec."

While celebrity pop-up shops may feel fresh, possibly because of social media buzz, the surprise factor and their upscale retail locations, they aren't exactly a new idea.

In 2002 and 2009, Elton John and his partner David Furnish raised £400,000 by selling some of their old clothing in a pop-up shop called Out of the Closet to benefit John's AIDS charity, well before today's stars jumped on the bandwagon.

But like any other trend, celebrity pop-up shops might become old news.

"I think as long as you're creating new and interesting experiences within that pop-up shop platform or model, it will keep attracting people and it will continue becoming successful," McLeod says.

"When it becomes old hat, where you don't bring something new to the table, then it's going to die out. When that's going to be or when that happens, it's hard to say."

Fans describe what they bought at the Justin Bieber pop-up shop on Queen Street West in Toronto. 0:39

About the Author

Dexter Brown

Associate Producer/Senior Writer

Dexter Brown is a freelance journalist originally from Toronto. He has covered everything from entertainment to business to general news for Yahoo, Post City Magazines and CPA Magazine.