Some of the nation's largest retailers are trying an unusual tactic this holiday season to boost revenue - pop-up stores, which are opened for lightning-quick sales campaigns with a limited array of products.
The latest is Target Corp., the retailer expanding in U.S. cities, which yesterday opened pop-up stores in New York, Washington, and San Francisco. With just a three-day run, these outlets - called Target To-Go - will close after business tomorrow.
Target and other merchants using pop-ups hope to generate holiday-season sales - and publicity. The chains also use them to test the popularity of new merchandise.
The temporary stores run by Target are each offering 50 products, including 99-cent Christmas tree ornaments, Sony Corp.'s PSP Go handheld video-game player for $249.99, and pieces from Target's Rodarte fashion line that won't be available nationwide until Dec. 20.
"They want to be prudent and make sure there is a market there," Kimberly Picciola, an analyst in Chicago for Morningstar Investment Services, said in a telephone interview. "For retailers, going into bigger markets, it's a big investment."
Target plans to open its first store in Manhattan next year.
Toys R Us Inc., the country's biggest toy retailer, opened pop-up Holiday Express shops this year to move Christmas gifts. J.C. Penney Co. ran a pop-up store in 2006 in New York's Times Square and this year opened a permanent location a few blocks away in Herald Square.
The Limited, the clothing chain, has a pop-up this year in Manhattan's Soho neighborhood. Wired magazine opened one Nov. 21 for about a month.
The slow economy provides incentive for retailers to be creative. Sales at Target, for example, fell 3.9 percent in the first three quarters of 2009 compared with a year earlier. U.S. sales at larger rival Wal-Mart Stores Inc., excluding fuel and its Sam's Club membership warehouses, rose a skimpy 0.5 percent in the same period.
Target opened its first pop-up in 2002, selling merchandise from a boat docked in New York's Hudson River.
The company, which has 1,744 stores in 49 states, plans to open about 10 outlets next year and is considering using smaller formats in big cities.
"The pop-up store has been an overwhelmingly successful marketing strategy," Joshua Thomas, a Target spokesman, said at the Manhattan location. "It's not uncommon at all for products that we feature on our pop-up stores to sell out entirely."