Kim Kunasek: Pop-Up Store Expert

Kim Kunasek and Rizal Oei are the brilliant brains behind the world-renowned Oei Design (pronounced “we”), a design company that specializes in consumer environments and retail entertainment. Some of their biggest clients have been Build-A-Bear Workshop, Ridemakerz, Toyota, and Roy’s Pacific Rim Restaurant. Kim and Rizal have been all around the globe designing retail stores, restaurants, and showrooms.

Recently, however, the two have been working on one of the most groundbreaking new trends in marketing: the “pop-up store.” It is essentially a shop with a shorter lifespan than standard brick and mortar retail stores; the goal being to to deliver a limited-edition item to a niche group of consumers. Words by Nerds was able to catch up with Kim and find out more about why the pop-up store is going to be the next big thing for corporate retail marketers.

“The whole concept of pop-up stores is something that I have been passionately trying to promote,” says Kim, “it doesn’t have a lot of legs in the southwest, although it should. It’s been going off like fire in England and in other parts of the world.”

According to Kim, the pop-store came into fruition after property owners who wouldn’t normally allow anything shorter than a 5-year lease, are being forced into shorter leases to help fill space. This can be an exciting but difficult thing for designers like Kim and Rizal who view their pop-up store designs as “performance art” due to its short lifespan.

“When you’re designing a space for a shorter term you have to think of it differently in terms of longevity for it to last and to hold up. In these times that we’re living in, it’s better to really value engineering in a way–you have to protect the brand.”

Kim drew inspiration on a trip to Beijing where she discovered that most property owners lease out their storefronts for only three months at a time. “The reason, as I understand it, is that most of the money the landlord receives is based off the sales of the product of the leasee or the store– if they are not selling, they don’t want them there. “

So how does this affect the way designers and builders look at different property spaces?  “If you couple that with technology and how technology is moving, it makes sense… I don’t think the really long-term leases will come back as we used to know them because the consumer case is changing quickly,”

“Technology is changing too, a lot of retail is online now. If brick and mortar stays, you have to redefine it. You have to say ‘what is happening?” It becomes more experiential, more of a marketing tool, more event based.”

Many business owners dread the term “marketing tool” because they know that they’re not going to get an immediate reaction. Kim says, “[pop-up stores change] the expectations for marketing; a lot of times you spend money on marketing and you don’t get tangible return. You have to do it and you know there’s a positive effect, but you don’t have monetary direct tie. Now, some of the brick and mortar retail [stores] are going to be viewed more [for] marketing, perhaps an event, that will over a longer period of time drive traffic to your online stores.”

“It’s a little more expensive initially, but the pop-up store can be taken down and moved to a new location. You can use them as test markets by checking the demographics and then make your move.”

Kim also believes that pop-up stores are perfect for “optimizing the American entrepreneur.” Kim says, there are several different avenues in terms of things like costs, design, and building, which forces business owners to “think outside the box.”

“It’s very American; it’s stepping outside the bureaucratic way of thinking.”

So if pop-up stores are the next big thing, how has Kim and Oei Design prepared for the future? According to Kim, they’re exactly “what the doctor is ordering right now.” With design work in Universal Studios and Downtown Disney, Oei Design has already had plenty of experience with the idea of a pop-up store.

“Our work has often been described as entertainment retail or destination retail. We’ve been doing it.”

Looking forward, Kim hopes more property owners and commercial bankers give in to the idea of the pop-up store so that we’ll be seeing more of this constantly evolving in-person marketing tool. With the rapidly changing face of marketing, we look forward to seeing what new endeavors Kim and the rest of the Oei Design team have in store.

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