GREENWICH — When they first started appearing on Greenwich Avenue about a decade ago, the “pop-up” stores looked like a fad.
But pop-ups aren’t a fad anymore in the retail world, and they’ve become the “new normal” on Greenwich Avenue and other shopping destinations around the country.
As retail struggles to remake itself while competing with online shopping and recovering from the COVID-19 crisis, the move toward pop-ups is gathering momentum, according to industry experts. The temporary boutiques, restaurants and marketing campaigns built around a brand are offering a more nimble approach to salesmanship and the allure of the brand-new, all propelled by the creative energy from small-scale entrepreneurs and big-name luxury retailers alike. All those factors are now finding a growing foothold on Greenwich Avenue.
Alexandra Baker is the face of the new breed of pop-up entrepreneurs in many ways, both worldly and intensely local. She grew up in Greenwich and lives in town, the daughter of a French mother and a British father, and she studied at Parsons School of Design. Baker has a background in e-commerce and design, leading to a decision to start her own eyewear brand nearly two years ago. She named it Féroce, which means “fierce woman” in French.
A pop-up seemed like a natural way to grow the business, and when she saw crowds on Greenwich Avenue this past summer while enjoying a meal with her husband, the plan to open a Féroce pop-up on the Avenue was formed. She set up shop in a former gallery on lower Greenwich Avenue in mid-February.
“I don’t have to worry about slow months. I’m able to test different models, without signing up for a long-term lease,” she said, gesturing to the line of sunglasses tastefully arrayed around her minimalist shop, “And we’re online, so we’re introducing the customer, hoping we can continue that relationship online.”
The human factor can make a difference in the retail field, she says, and customers like to make a personal connection with their purchase. “They can learn about the product, they like to hear the story, and I can tell it best. You can buy anything, anywhere, so this little element of special-ness, it’s something unique,” said Baker, a Greenwich High School graduate.
The pop-up has served up a good education for her own development as a designer and businesswoman. “ I’ve learned what other styles they might want to see, what colors they want, all of those things,” said Baker, who described the brand as combination of “timelessness and fashion at the same time.”
The glasses she designs herself, which offer the highest level of eye protection, are marketed at an accessible price-point, beginning at $110. “The idea is to make you feel like you’re buying $500 to $600 glasses,” she said, and the shop also has a carefully curated selection of fun beach hats and breezy nautical tops made by a British designer that play into the concept of accessible luxury. Her shop will run through June 15, and Baker said she would like to do another pop-up somewhere in the region at a later date.
Diane Roth, a Greenwich real-estate agent who has worked to get two pop-ups up and running, a gallery and a fur shop on Lewis Street, sees value in the trend.