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Italian shoe brand writing the book on retail pop-up strategy

Michele LoPriore, a high-end women's Italian shoe brand, knows all about retail pop-up strategy after popping up in Boca Raton, New York and now Chicago.

Italian shoe brand writing the book on retail pop-up strategyPhoto courtesy of Michele Lopriore.

| by Judy Mottl — Editor, &

Michele Lopriore, a high-end womens shoe brand, launched its first retail pop-up experience in South Miami in 2018. Then it was on to Manhattan a year later, popping up in New York City's World Trade Center Mall and then, also this year, in Chicago where the Italian retailer popped up on the north end of the city's Magnificent Mile at the North Michigan Shops.

Next up? New Jersey — within the American Dream Meadowland complex — in March 2020. And that's all while running a U.S. flagship brick-and-mortar in Miami, an online presence as well as nine stores in Italy.

The family-run business, founded 32 years ago by brand namesake, Michele Lopriore, opened its first store, in Piazza Cadorna, Milan in 1986.

Pop-up strategy is clear

The Italian retailer, which designs and manufactures its footwear, has a simple goal with its pop-up strategy: spread the word about its brand and  excellence of made in Italy to more American consumers.

But while the goal is concise, developing and deploying a retail pop-up strategy is a bit more complex.

The move to 'pop up' is being driven by rapidly changing consumer shopping habits and the need for brands to be flexible and adapt to many different situations, said CEO Mike Lopriore, the founder's son. In other words, the brand must not focus solely on permanent deals where a store is going to remain in the same location for many years.

"I understood this as soon as I arrived in the U.S. Our customers are from all over the U.S. and it was impossible for me to think to open many flagships at the same time," Lopriore told Retail Customer Experience in an email interview.

So, the CEO started driving around Miami, knocking on doors introducing himself and the brand for any opportunity to do short-term retail deals.

"Quite honestly, many landlords reached out directly due to the success and beauty of our flagship store in Miami," he said.

The brand launched the Miami area pop-up in Boca Raton though many advised Lopriore against the location, stating it was too far from Miami. But his retail instinct proved to be spot-on.

"Now, every week we have customers driving down from Boca Raton to Miami to shop our collection. The experience of the pop-up is overall to make yourself known, and if you sell a great product your customers will be loyal and will continue doing business with you," he said.

The decision to pop up in Chicago was made for very similar reasons. The 1,765-square-foot Chicago pop-up showcases best-selling sneakers, as well as the brands trendy collection of classic pumps, heels, espadrilles and ballerina flats.

"Our U.S. flagship is located at Brickell City Centre in Miami, where we are visited by customers from all over the U.S. and the world. We interact with our customers and they constantly asked us, 'Why not a store in Chicago? LA? Dallas? Houston?' We listen to them and we make it happen," he said.

Key decisions to make

Just like choosing a brick-and-mortar location, the pop-up location decision is just as critical, said Lopriore.

"You can't go everywhere just because you want to open a pop-up. Certain characteristics are required in order to open one," he said, adding there must be good visibility and proximity to good brands to be able to sustain the business.\

Then it's time to investigate the physical space and how easy it will be for a smooth implementation of merchandise and fixtures.

"I am always concerned about the turnover of a pop-up. I have always been like this since my days selling shoes on the street market in Milan, I was loading the van the night before the street market and going to sleep at night thinking, 'Am I going to succeed tomorrow? Do I have enough merchandise?'" he shared.

Then is time to focus on the merchandise.

"You will only succeed when you have important stock with you, you can't open without your best sellers, you must have certain product in every store as they are what represent the brand," said Lopriore.

And finally, just as with the brick-and-mortar strategy, staffing is key and creating a good team.

"I developed the management in Miami and now these managers have moved from Miami to NYC and to Chicago. You need to convert your sales associate into brand ambassador, they are the ones who interact with your customers and this is how customers will perceive the brand."

Lessons learned along the way

Lopriore said each unique pop-up experience has brought lessons and valuable knowledge.

"There is always something to learn. From the first pop-up in Boca Raton to Chicago, many things have changed. I am investing way more in merchandising the space, and I try to have more images of the brand around," he said.

As every pop-up location is different, each also presents unique challenges. He acknowledges that opening in New York City, one of the biggest retail centers in the world, has given him courage.

"I am used to opening stores since I was 5 years old. I was following my father, Michele, in his business. I guess you really need to be strong when the moment to open will arrive because you will cross many different tasks in a single day, and you must get them done before the opening deadline. After opening at the World Trade Center NYC with many different security requirements, nothing scares me anymore. I can't wait to open another one."

Judy Mottl

Judy Mottl is editor of Retail Customer Experience and Food Truck Operator. She has decades of experience as a reporter, writer and editor covering technology and business for top media including AOL, InformationWeek and InternetNews.

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