Will Pop Up Grocer bring discovery to grocery retailing?

Discussion
Photos: Pop Up Grocer/Instagram
Feb 12, 2020
Tom Ryan

Pop Up Grocer, self-described as a “traveling pop-up grocery store,” opened its first West Coast location in Venice Beach.

The New York-based company started last year with two pop-ups in Manhattan.

In Venice Beach, the 1,000-square-foot space, which will be open from Feb. 7 through Mar. 1, features more than 150 emerging, better-for-you brands in food, beverage, home, pet and body care categories.

“We’re not here for the purpose of your weekly haul of milk, eggs and toilet paper,” founder Emily Schildt told the Los Angeles Daily News. “We want to introduce people to the newest and most interesting products.”

The ambiance is more like a boutique than a grocery store, with sleek white walls, colorful shopping baskets, fresh pastries and coffees from a local vendor and a lounge to encourage browsing. Curated assortments support storytelling and Instagrammable moments.

 

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For the winter edition of our in-store 📖 magazine, Shelf Talk, we sat down with Julia Sherman, author of @saladforpresident 🥗 and co-creator of Jus Jus (with @marthastoumen 👑). ⁣ What’s in her basket? “I’m a huge fan of all things @patagonia, and their tinned fish is a fun alternative to cheese plates. Open a can, and serve bread, butter, olive oil, and maybe preserved lemon or pickled chili peppers. You don’t need much else.” 🐟 ⁣ ⁣ “I don’t usually keep snacks in the house because I have no self control—I can crush a whole bag of those lotus puffs in one sitting—but at some point I just decided that popcorn is okay to eat in massive quantities.” 🍿 ⁣ ⁣ RSVP (free!) to our event taking place tomorrow (Monday) night, inside the shop, to meet Julia in person and sip on some Jus Jus. Hit the link in our profile! ⁣ ⁣ #PopUpGrocer #AfterHours 🍷✨

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The start-up said in a statement, “Pop Up Grocer creates an environment that still feels like a grocery store — product, shelves, fridges — but is fresh enough to take you out of your normal, passive shopping behavior. They create a backdrop for exploration with a space that is friendly and inviting, with the use of colors and smileys — even a living room for lounging and gathering.”

Pop Up Grocer will also hold after-hours events, including tastings and discussions on food and culture. The hope is that the concept helps retailers discover new brands as well.

“There are big, mass retail stores with an overwhelming amount of product and then there are small, boutique retail stores that are sparse and often pretentious,” Ms. Schildt said in an interview with puff. “What I wanted was a space that felt friendly, fun and inviting, and offered me only the best of what’s available.”

The retailer is also planning an Austin pop-up for spring. 

Food vendors have opened pop-ups to introduce new items and raise awareness. Kellogg’s just opened a pop-up in Notting Hill to support its first fruit and vegetable-based cereal created by and for children. Later this month, King’s Hawaiian will be open a Breakfast Bungalow in New York City for a limited time.

Grocery retailers, however, aren’t rushing into the pop-up space.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you think of pop-up grocery stores as a way for emerging food brands to be discovered? Are grocers failing to take advantage of the pop-up movement?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"It takes shoppers out of the expected element and leaves them open to new things."
"Encouraging consumers to linger in lounges and attend events can elevate grocery shopping from a mundane chore to an alluring community experience."
"Pop-ups can be a smart idea. But to take grocery entirely out of context and insert it into a “pop-up” seems ill conceived."

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17 Comments on "Will Pop Up Grocer bring discovery to grocery retailing?"


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Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

I don’t think this concept will be successful. There is already so many grocery options, I doubt the world needs more in an already over-built landscape. I understand that the company is attempting to do a convenience/experience/pop-up, but I just don’t think this will be compelling enough to inspire shoppers. As for pop-ups in the grocery category in general, I just don’t see why they would want/need to. I understand why CPG companies would want to do pop-ups, but grocery retailers, no.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

I can see this working, especially in more affluent neighborhoods. Most consumers like discovering new things and so long as the range is well curated and regularly changed there is plenty to keep people coming back. Of course, the concept isn’t necessarily suited to fulfilling everyday grocery needs but that’s not its purpose and is actually a point of differentiation. This is food shopping for interest and fun.

Jeff Weidauer
BrainTrust

The pop-up concept makes sense when a store caters to seasonal events like Halloween. But a grocery pop-up has limited benefits for both shoppers and manufacturers. The retail community may be able to learn something, but this is not a compelling concept.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

It’s hard for grocery stores to change drastically because what we expect them to be is so deeply ingrained in the consumer psyche. We know to grab a cart and explore the aisles; products that are new aren’t a stand out because we shop with tunnel vision.

This is why I like the concept of Pop Up Grocer so much – it takes shoppers out of the expected element and leaves them open to new things. Hopefully, vendor participation will lead grocers to give pop-ups a try in their own stores. And I know that the suburbs aren’t considered sexy enough for a pop-up like this, but I’d sure like to see what suburban moms, typically with overflowing shopping carts, would do at a Pop Up Grocer!

Dave Wendland
BrainTrust

I tend to be on the opposite side of the equation from Mark Ryski or Jeff Weidauer on this topic. I believe that the thrill of discovery and the excitement of a pop-up can make it a formidable entrant in an already-crowded grocery space. Why? Because walking through the tiring and laborious aisles of a traditional grocer is simply not fun. Nor does the current channel delight shoppers with fresh and newly-inspired brands. Pop-ups can create conversation, drive new sales, and be an awesome launch pad to broader product roll outs. Pop-ups done right can also create ubiquitous brand recognition for an existing grocer who wants to develop new shoppers in underdeveloped areas.

Lisa Goller
BrainTrust

Pop-ups will reinvigorate grocery stores by prioritizing innovative products and interactive experiences.

Careful curation reflects consumers’ desire for convenience and time savings with assortments that deliver consistent quality. Efficient use of space makes pop-ups cozier and friendlier than cavernous stores. Encouraging consumers to linger in lounges and attend events can elevate grocery shopping from a mundane chore to an alluring community experience.

We will see more pop-up shops in 2020, as consumers still like to scrutinize products before they buy, startups don’t need big budgets to get discovered and retailers gain candid, real-time insights into why consumers purchase or abandon a product.

David Naumann
BrainTrust

This is an interesting concept, but it is hard to imagine that the pop-up grocery stores will be profitable and successful. It would be a good platform to introduce new products and enable consumers to identify new products that may inspire new recipes or meals. Personally, I think this concept will have limited success and does not have long legs.

Dave Bruno
BrainTrust

I love this concept and definitely think it has a chance to succeed, particularly with the combination of events, experiences and exploration. It’s a great way to disrupt the traditional grocery shopping model. I would love to see other grocers consider popping up shops in food deserts. A completely different model of course, but I am thinking it could be good for the communities and for the grocers.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
BrainTrust

Fun is what distinguishes these pop-up stores. An attractive environment with new, different products creates a treasure hunting atmosphere for what is new and different. Certainly this has appeal, but what happens when the pop-up store closes and someone wants to purchase something they tried and liked? The pop-up stores can generate awareness and trial, but additional strategies are needed for repeat and routine shopping.

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust
15 days 44 minutes ago

Pop-ups can be a smart idea. But to take grocery entirely out of context and insert it into a “pop-up” seems ill conceived.

No, I do not believe that brands will find this to be a way to get “discovered.”

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

It depends on the market. Venice, for example, has a bohemian history going back generations so I expect it will work well there. Ditto for other parts of LA, San Francisco (if you could afford the rent), Portland, Seattle, Austin, and similar markets. The question is, is this really a scalable solution, and I think the answer to that is that it depends on how grandiose your idea of scale is. If your ambitions are modest, this works fine. If you overdo it, you lose the novelty and start frustrating customers. That said, I do believe traditional supermarket operators could use the pop-up concept more effectively, which in most cases means they should try it once or twice and see what happens.

Scott Norris
Guest

What shopper has time for this? “Looks vaguely grocery-ish, don’t know what they have but it isn’t the brands I usually get. Don’t know how long the store will be around. Don’t know if I would like it. No fresh foods. Sure, I have an hour to burn…”
I’ll just go to my usual Super Target, Asian grocer, and farmers’ market in season. If someone really wants to pop-up and get my attention, they ought to rent a table there.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

I love the pop-up business model. It is great for seasonal retailers or retailers that want to extend their footprint during key seasonal periods. But — grocery?

I define a pop-up as a situation where the space is there for a limited time; two weeks, a month, maybe two. Once you pass that, you are in a completely different business model.

Now, as they describe it, it sounds quite enticing. “The ambiance is more like a boutique than a grocery store, with sleek white walls, colorful shopping baskets, fresh pastries and coffees from a local vendor and a lounge to encourage browsing. Curated assortments support storytelling and Instagrammable moments.” If this is enticing for a short period of time, why wouldn’t it be enticing all the time? It is a place of discovery. A different take on Starbucks. Why open it and then close it?

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

Whatever the merits of the idea in general — and TBO for some reason I find this annoyingly self-indulgent — less than a month is way too short a time. If I were a grocer, there are plenty of more important things to be worried about.

Liz Crawford
BrainTrust

I love it! Intercept the shopper with a boutique experience — what a great way to drive trial. Shoppers will be more inclined toward impulse purchasing under these circumstances as well. Bravo.

Patricia Vekich Waldron
Staff

I think this is a great way to connect with consumers and introduce new offers. DTC brands can promote new products (and get immediate feedback), and grocers can showcase private label, meal solutions or fresh foods.

James Tenser
BrainTrust

Pop Up Grocer might find a niche in resort areas, where tourists on foot seek novel shopping experiences. Keep the focus on prepared, snack, and beverage items and open in beach towns, pedestrian malls, or maybe Fisherman’s Wharf or the Vegas Strip.

If it sticks to a conventional grocery store ambiance, however, I predict more lookers than buyers. I’d put the arm on the aspiring brands to bring imaginative visual merchandising to the party — like the original STORY in Manhattan. Make it surprising, and you might turn it into a destination.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"It takes shoppers out of the expected element and leaves them open to new things."
"Encouraging consumers to linger in lounges and attend events can elevate grocery shopping from a mundane chore to an alluring community experience."
"Pop-ups can be a smart idea. But to take grocery entirely out of context and insert it into a “pop-up” seems ill conceived."

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