October 22, 2013 -- They're not just for Halloween anymore: Pop-up stores of all kinds are sprouting up year-round -- some pegged to other holidays, others to special promotions or one-time sales. Ones selling ghost and goblin garb, however, still predominate.
Nikoleta Panteva, senior retail analyst for market research firm IBISWorld in Los Angeles, told ABC News that pop-ups have proliferated from 2,043 in 2009 to 2,459 this year. Of those, Halloween pop-ups accounted for 1,304 in 2009 and will account for 1,706 this season.
Pop-ups are short-term retail establishments pegged to some holiday, season, trend or other ephemeral occurrence. There are pop-ups keyed to Christmas and Valentine's Day. A clothing retailer looking to unload merchandise either overstocked or out of season can use pop-ups to unload it. Conversely, a tech company like Microsoft, looking to showcase its newest tablet, can also go the pop-up route.
Christina Norsig publishes the website PopUpInsider and is author of the book "PopUp Retail: How You Can Master This Global Marketing Phenomenon." She told ABC News it was the recession that really got the movement off the ground: Landlords looking to fill vacant retail spaces in malls and neighborhoods started offering cheap deals to short-term tenants.
The number of pop-ups has exploded, she said, because both retailer and landlord stand to benefit: The landlord makes revenue from property that would otherwise be unproductive. In mall situations, where the owner has a vacancy, she likens the advent of a pop-up store to replacing a missing tooth: it supports the health of all the surrounding businesses. Plus, she said, not every retail concept needs or can support a full-year lease.
This Halloween, New York City is sporting its first-ever "Pup-Up": a pop-up devoted exclusively to costumes for dogs. "Would that idea have legs 12 months out of the year? Probably not," Norsig said.
The pup-up is the brainchild of Richard Parrot, president of Ricky's, which describes itself as an edgy, ultra-hip beauty-shop.
Parrot told ABC News he thinks Halloween has gotten a little stale. Nor does he find Halloween-themed pop-ups all that interesting anymore. Ricky's has used them for years, he said. By the end of 2013, Ricky's will have used 19 different pop-ups pegged to themes, including Mardi Gras and Valentine's Day. "We pop-up a lot," he said.
How's the pup-up doing? "It's being very well received," Parrot said. "I just left the store, and the people who go walking out have a smile on their face. Usually you don't get that kind of reaction."
As popular as pop-ups have shown themselves to be, they still account for less than 1 percent of retail space, according to IBISWorld's data. Panteva noted that as of now, nobody tracks pop-up aggregate sales.
They are a low-risk way for a retailer to check out a neighborhood where he or she might want to locate a permanent store, Panteva said.
That's the way Parrot said he's using his: One of his Halloween pop-ups is on Park Row in lower Manhattan. It's a neighborhood he suspects could support a permanent Ricky's. "A pop-up allows me to test the waters," he said. "I can get my feet on the ground, interact with customers, see how the neighborhood receives the brand." Likewise, he can use the pop-up to fine-tune his mix of merchandise: do customers want more cosmetics than hair-care products, or visa versa.
By far the biggest Halloween pop-up is New Jersey-based Spirit Halloween, with 1,052 temporary stores nationwide. Crystal Rodriguez, manager of marketing, told ABC News that the majority opened on Labor Day and will close on Nov. 2 or Nov. 3, because Halloween falls on a Thursday this year.
Spirit Halloween, she said, will hire 20,000 employees to staff its stores this Halloween. The company has 500 permanent employees to plan next year's sales. Rodriguez compared getting ready for each new season to planning for the Super Bowl: It doesn't matter that the season is short; the logistics are so complex they need a year's advance work.
Throughout every year, she said, Spirit Halloween is busy scouting locations and signing leases for next year's pop-up stores. The company has to guess what next year's hot costumes will be, and to buy accordingly, she said. This year, Spirit's top 10 trends include superheroes, Disney characters, pirates and The Walking Dead.
Plus twerking: According to Rodriguez, the hottest pop culture costumes will include a "Twerkin' Teddy" plush leotard for the ladies as sported by Miley Cyrus at the Video Music Awards.