Business

Seasonal shops open, make money, go away

CHARLOTTE - The Jewelry Artists of Charlotte store at Ballantyne Village will close Dec. 31, after a run of only six weeks.

But the short run is by design. The shop, which sells bracelets, necklaces, rings and accessories made by local artists, is a pop-up store, so called because it's meant to last a limited time and generate excitement in its brief life span.

In recent years, numerous retailers seeking to drum up buzz have turned to such temporary outlets, often to bring products to areas where they might not be sold otherwise. They're also common for Halloween stores.

But this holiday season, some local retailers have been giving the concept a whirl, too. With more vacancies and fewer potential permanent tenants because of the recession, landlords have become more amenable to alternative options for filling space.

"I kept seeing all these Halloween stores, and I was thinking ... why can't we have a great jewelry store open in our center for Christmas?" said Shelly Domenech, the owner of I.C. London, a lingerie boutique.

The former Lions Jewelers store near her Ballantyne location had been empty for months, and so at Halloween she pitched the idea to the shopping center's management. They gave her the go-ahead to set up a seasonal store.

In a frantic couple of weeks, she and friend Patricia Snow, the event organizer, auditioned about 20 local artists to sell their wares. They began marketing via word of mouth and online, and helped decorate the intact, high-end jewelry counters and windows for the season. They used wrapping paper, bows and hand-lettered signs to cover up brand-name logos that remained from Lions.

Four weeks in, Domenech said, local artisans are reporting strong sales, and she says the shop has also brought people to the shopping center who wouldn't have visited otherwise.

Most of the artists, who sell pieces ranging from $10 to $2,000, don't have a retail presence and generally sell online or at house parties. So they appreciate the exposure, Domenech said.

"(Having a pop-up store) created a sense of urgency, absolutely," she said. "Just turning the lights on and having it be a cheerful, exciting place to go picks up the spirits of all the merchants out here. It's a bright spot in the center instead of being dark. It's been good for all of us."

The store's temporary nature wasn't obvious to everyone, Domenech said. "People who shopped here before will come in looking to get their watch battery replaced or get a ring resized, and we're like 'Oh, we don't do that!'"

Providing a new retail venue for local vendors was also the aim of the uptown pop-up, a holiday market called Twelve because it ran for 12 days, concluding last Saturday.

Charlotte Center City Partners, which organized the market, turned the former Grand Central deli and nightclub into a space where about 10 vendors sold locally produced crafts, foods and other seasonal items.

Ted Boyd, Center City Partners' program director, learned about pop-up retail when he attended a conference about public markets in New York earlier this fall. The holiday market idea came together in about two weeks, he said, with property managers of the Grand Central space agreeing to make it available at a minimal rate, to cover upkeep.

Boyd then spoke to vendors, several of whom also participate in the market held during the summer at Trade and Tryon, and convinced them to give it a try. They paid $10 a day and received a 10 percent discount if they paid in advance, Boyd said.

Traffic was encouraging, Boyd said, and the market made about $16,300 in sales, even with many vendors not there all 12 days.

Beyond dollars and cents, he said, Twelve brought street-level retail to a stretch that doesn't have much of it otherwise, and helped provide a better sense of uptown retail patterns.

Domenech charged artists an initial fee for labor and startup costs, while the landlord gets a cut of earnings in lieu of rent.

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