Stores Popping Up on Campus
By Tom Ryan
College students have long been a target for marketers looking to build brand loyalty. But only in the past few years have brands set up pop-up stores on campuses, recruited students for paid positions to aggressively promote their products, and hosted their own campus events. And the trend appears to be gaining momentum.
Victoria’s Secret’s this fall opened up pop-up stores for its Pink collection at about 12 schools, up from 10 last spring, according to an article in The Wall Street Journal. The stores open for a day, selling merchandise, handing out promotional items and collecting used clothing for charity.
Havaianas, the flip-flop maker, opened temporary “pop-up” store on five campuses in the U.S., and is running competitions awarding trips to Brazil. Sustainable-clothing brand RVL7 installed a bamboo-clad temporary mini-store at six to eight campuses this fall.
According to the Journal, the campus-push by brands is likely to accelerate. American Collegiate Intramural Sports, which sells sponsorships for college intramural programs and fitness centers, is seeking a fashion brand to sponsor fitness centers and host pop-up stores at 100 campuses in the next year.
These events come as both the number and spending power of students has grown sharply. About 18.3 million students will enroll in U.S. post-secondary institutions this fall, up 26 percent from 14.5 million a decade ago, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The discretionary spending of 18- to 30-year-old students is estimated to reach $53 billion this year, 10 percent more than last year and 29 percent more than in 2005, according to the latest College Explorer study by Harris Interactive for Alloy Media and Marketing.
Some schools reject the idea of brands promoting products on campus because they infringe on on-campus stores. Others have a long-standing policy against brands setting up shop on campus. Said University of Florida spokesman, Steve Orlando, “We don’t want our faculty and students overrun with commercialization.”
But companies generally make a donation to the school, campus bookstore or student organization that sponsors their visits. Many of campaigns also have an educational or academic element, such as lessons about sustainability from RVL7 or interviews for internships at Victoria’s Secret’s Pink shop. Tony Berger, president of New York event-and-marketing firm Relevent, which helps organize campus campaigns, said that often the schools and students view the visits as having “added value.”
Discussion Questions: How big an opportunity do pop-up stores on college campuses represent for consumer brands and retailers? What are the pros and cons associated with the pop-up store tactic?