A matchmaking service for pop-up stores

The recession may not have given birth to "pop-up" stores -- there were Christmas tree lots and Halloween costume places long before 7 million of us lost our jobs -- but it certainly has given legitimacy to what is now a full-fledged real estate trend.

Think of it as temporary housing for your business, and figure it's here to stay.

A pop-up store, to those who haven't been able to afford a trip to the mall in the past year or so, is a business that occupies a space temporarily. In some cases, it's a jewelry maker renting just a shelf or corner in a crafts market or a clothing designer who pays a nominal fee to have her line featured in the shop window. And the thing about pop-ups is that they are here today and gone tomorrow. Literally. Some exist, create their buzz and then vanish to some other location. It's part of the allure, say those who track retailing trends.

There are even pop-up restaurants, which thrive in several forms -- including mobile kitchen trucks. In many cities, including Los Angeles, the Twitterati spread the word each day where the kimchi or taco truck is parked and devotees rush to patronize. Lines often form around the block at lunchtime.

In New York, pop-up fooderies are modeled after the one-night stand concept: Would-be restaurateurs borrow the kitchen of an established eatery for a single evening when the restaurant would normally be closed. They use their e-mailing lists to let their clientele know where the chef will be that night and what's for dinner. It creates a buzz for those in the know; who doesn't love to be first with gossipy information? And from the chef's perspective, it sure beats the risks of opening your own shop in tough economic times.

So now along comes a business that uses online resources to help those businesses find landlords with space for lease. www.PopUpInsider.com matches commercial landlords who have available space with retailers seeking a temporary home. "By facilitating pop-up shops, PopUpInsider helps building owners produce cash flow and improve their vacant space, and helps retailers generate quick sales, build brand awareness, and test new locations and products without a long-term lease commitment," says the PopUpInsider's boring press release.

But truth is, this was a service whose time had come. With so much commercial real estate space sitting vacant -- 7.6% according to published reports -- they have hit on something. The web site has two services – an online exchange where landlords or their brokers pay to advertise their vacant space and retailers view these listings for free. In addition, PopUpInsider's fee-based "Concierge Service" guides users on how to open pop-up shops.

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