New stores may be popping up

In an effort to improve the local business climate, Kimco Realty has unveiled a new initiative. The company announced on March 19 that it has launched Pop It Up Here!, a new program to enable entrepreneurs to test the retail waters by taking short-term leases at locations among the properties owned by Kimco.

Wilton is one of six markets where Kimco is rolling out the new venture. The others are Denver, Dallas, San Francisco, Phoenix, and Bellevue, Wash. There are four properties immediately available here, three in Wilton River Park — although one is currently occupied — and one in the Wilton Campus, both on River Road. Wilton River Park is the plaza that includes Stop & Shop. The Wilton Campus property was formerly occupied by Chou Chou.

While pop-up stores are not new to Wilton — they are popular during the winter holidays at Wilton Historical Society, and a pop-up art gallery appeared in Cannondale Village in 2014 — they appear to be a growing trend in retail. A press release from Kimco references the National Retail Federation and Forrester’s recent State of Retailing Online study, which shows that 24% of online and brick-and-mortar retailers are testing pop-up stores.

“Many retailers find the freedom of a shorter-term lease appealing,” David Jamieson, chief operating officer of Kimco Realty, said in the release. “Pop-up shops have become a way for retailers to test market ideas, create a customer following, or transition from clicks to bricks without the liability of a long-term lease.”

Wilton opportunities

Kimco thought Wilton would be an ideal location because the majority of its tenants are local business owners with one or a few outlets in Fairfield County, Amy Daniels, leasing representative for Wilton, told The Bulletin in a conference call on Monday.

“A lot of times when starting a new business, people are coming from home or have seen other [pop-up stores],” she said. “We thought Wilton would benefit from the opportunity to do a test run pop-up shop at the center. … We thought it would be a good way to engage the community, a good way for someone to make use of a space while looking for a long-term solution.”

Christina McNelis, director of portfolio management and one of the program’s creators at Kimco, was also in on the call. “One of the goals is to generate excitement for the shopping centers and the community,” she said. “If we can lease some spaces to pop-ups, it might be for a weekend, and in a month another comes in — it adds more life to the center.

There is no limit to how short a lease can be, McNelis said. “You can take a lease for just a day to promote a brand or sell a product. Every short-term lease is taken on a case-by-case basis — from a weekend to months.”

The units that are being marketed as available are move-in ready, McNelis said. If a potential tenant “called us today and said we would like to have a pop-up store in one week, we wouldn’t have to paint or change carpet,” she said, adding that if someone were interested in an empty space that was not so designated, it would not be ruled out.

For the larger space that’s available, McNelis said, it can be sectioned off with dividers if a business didn’t need the whole space.

Daniels acknowledged the retail industry is changing. “Some categories are having a tougher time than others, such as apparel and accessories,” she said. “There’s vacancy in the market. That’s why we’re starting these creative programs in Wilton.” Kimco is investing more money in marketing, she said, and seeing positive results. “We’re working on filling it up. We hope to keep the positive momentum going and grow the center.”

“And promote local business growth as well,” McNelis said. “We’re hoping it will be beneficial for the community.”

Pop It Up Here! is a product of Kimco’s LABS (Leaders Advancing Business Strategy) program, the company’s entrepreneurial idea incubator and leadership development program, launched in 2015.