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Pandemic Pop-ups Prove Popular

AP Photo/Nathan Ellgren

Pop-up stores are not a new concept, but in Hawaii’s Covid economy, they have taken on a new significance for retailers.

A pop-up store is, by design, intentionally temporary. According to the Hawaii Small Business Development Center, they have a lot of advantages, especially for first-time business owners. They are cheaper to open, they aren’t stuck in a long-term lease, they have the flexibility to test products and packaging strategies, and their brevity itself has the appeal of the “limited time offer.”

These advantages have become even more appealing in Hawaii’s depressed Covid economy, plus there’s one more factor: Increased opportunity. Shopping centers have begun actively recruiting more pop-ups to fill empty storefronts.

For City Mill, all these factors combined to make launching a pop-up an irresistible experiment for even this veteran retailer. City Mill owns Simply Organized in Kahala Mall, where foot traffic had declined through Covid. When its neighbor closed, City Mill vice president Carol Ai May and her team pitched the mall on a pop-up they could put into that space. The result just opened this week, called Simply Garden, selling plants, planters and gardening tools to capitalize on people’s renewed interest in healthy, happy interiors as they work from home.

May says City Mill is putting everything it can into the venture, and, like all pop-up founders, she’s eager to see if this something customers embrace enough to make it a permanent store or even an entirely new brand.

A. Kam Napier is the editor-in-chief of Pacific Business News.
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