A permanent Malaysian pop-up store

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Pretty handmade craftsPretty handmade crafts

At its entrance, homemade peanut butter on a rustic display tempts shoppers. A few steps in, dainty children’s clothes hang. A few more steps inside, rugged urban bags call for attention. And clothes, shoes, handmade crafts and more artisan food.

It’s like a treasure chest. You never know what you might find inside Pop, the permanent pop-up bazaar tucked inside the Jaya One retail development. It is owned by a subsidiary of Jaya One.

Like a weekend bazaar, it’s an intriguing mish-mash of stalls. But unlike a bazaar, this is their permanent home.

Charles Wong, its executive director, said Pop is an evolution of the popular weekend markets hosted by Jaya One, which had many regular vendors who came back week after week.

But after a few markets, their backs ached from lugging boxes around, setting up the display and taking it down again after a few hours, and never knowing when the next market will be held.

“They felt like gypsies. But in business, consistency is very important. As such, they couldn’t move to the next level,” he said.

charles wong

It occurred to Wong (pic) that the 14,000 sq ft space in the corner of The School, a mall within Jaya One, could be turned into a mega pop-up store.

Pop opened in December 2013 with 15 to 20 vendors. Now, it has 46 vendors, mostly in fashion and food, and can take a maximum 70.

Wong calls it a retail hotel because it functions like a hotel where vendors can check in and out, with a daily, weekly or monthly rate for a space. Like a hotel, Pop takes care of the mundane processes like cash collection, security, cleanliness and shared facilities like fitting rooms.

The vendors take care of the décor of their space and display of products.

“This lets them focus on what they do best – developing their product and marketing it,” he said.

More importantly, like a hotel, Pop is intended to be a short-term stay. Wong reckons that one year should be enough time for the vendors to graduate to a retail store on their own.

To him, Pop is not just a space to house small stores but also a helping hand to bridge the gap between weekend bazaars and a retail store. It allows new vendors to learn the ropes, and to learn to fail and start again.

As he said: “Pop is the cheapest place to fail!”

food

Most of Pop’s retailers are bazaar veterans who have taken on a relatively long lease of a year. Many hold day jobs, and are in their late 20s to early 30s. This retail line is their secret passion.

Not unlike their vendors, Pop itself is also an experiment as a business. Being the first retail hotel, it has had to chart its own course and make its own mistakes.

It stumbled a bit when plans for a café on site didn’t pan through, and the initial mix of tenants and branding wasn’t ideal. It started out branded as an artisan bazaar but that niche sector only appealed to a small group.

Then, Wong hit on the idea of marketing Pop as a stepping stone in entrepreneurship.

“We decided to celebrate entrepreneurship. After all, at the back of their minds, everyone wants to be an entrepreneur,” he said.

That’s when Pop took off. It found its niche. From RM30,000 a month, its vendors now cumulatively earn RM150,00 a month, averaging RM4,500 each.

As a business, Pop is not raking in the big bucks yet as its rentals are kept low in line with its philosophy of being a helping hands to new entrepreneurs. Wong said income from rental has stabilised but it has to move to the next level by creating content like holding events.

“We are now looking into new strategies to evolve further,” he said.

Shoppers browse through Pop’s eclectic offerings.Shoppers browse through Pop’s eclectic offerings.

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