PopUp Shops co-founders Rob Dobson, Megan Silianoff, Barry Goldware, and Scott Blair

The Houston retail tech startup PopUp Shops recently announced its nationwide expansion. Founded in 2017, PopUp Shops describes itself as a Match.com for brands seeking spaces with no booking fees.

The four entrepreneurs behind the startup—Barry Goldware of Sun & Ski Sports, Megan Silianoff, Scott Blair, and Rob Dobson—want to revolutionize the industry with their online platform.

“PopUp Shops has the technology to match said brands and temporary spaces based on the profiles that they fill out,” said Silianoff, who serves as vice president of marketing. “This is why it’s so much more effective than anything else out there and what makes its revolutionary to the pop-up industry.” 

After launching in Houston, the platform was well-received during a presentation at the International Council of Shopping Centers conference in Las Vegas last month. Leading real estate firms such as General Growth Properties, Simon, Brixmore, Newquest, and Weingarten Realty are taking advantage of the platform to list their available spaces. Kicpops, Twisted Arrow Goods, and Bernie’s Burger Bus are among the many brands who have listed on the website.

“The retail landscape is dramatically changing, and pop-up shops are an answer to help brands and spaces reinvent themselves. Shorter leases are becoming the norm,” Goldware said.

Amazon and many other e-commerce sites are affecting brick-and-mortar stores, resulting in less traffic, loss of profit, reduced store count, store vacancies, and even entire retail chains going out of business, Silianoff said.

For Goldware, Silianoff, Blair, and Dobson, pop-ups are the answer. Landlords can fill vacant spaces and generate buzz around their properties in hopes that retailers might sign long-term leases while also providing flexibility to transition on such short notice. 

Many developers consider pop-up shops to be as much about marketing their centers as they are about leasing space," said Silianoff. “Some developers are even dedicating permanent space strictly to pop-up shops to add excitement, personality, and flavor to their center.” 

The set-up is also advantageous for brands, allowing a retailer to test a new location before committing to a lease, plus the chance to grow their markets without making a long-term commitment, like signing a year-long contract.

“Pop-ups benefit seasonal retailers, allowing them to lock in profitability by operating only when sales are strong," Silianoff said. "Also, pop-ups help the pure online retailer elevate their brand by offering the opportunity for consumers to touch and feel, which is obviously missing in a pure e-commerce transaction–again, without the burden of a long-term lease."

Silianoff said a nationwide presence for the brand is validation that this concept is the answer to not just a local Houston need but an industry-wide concern about an American retail crisis that needs solving.

“Houston isn’t the only city where traditional brick-and-mortar retail is suffering and vacancies in malls and strip centers are prolific because of it. It’s happening in all 50 states,” Silianoff said.

Party City has recently listed on PopUp Shops, and Silianoff is in the process of trying to get Reformation, REVOLVE, and Nasty Gal registered and ready to pop up in Houston. 

Membership for both brands and spaces on PopUp Shops is free for a limited time. In the future, brands wanting to list on the platform will pay $47 per quarter and spaces will pay $397 per quarter for three listings.

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