Pop ups are tops for shoppers

REAL DEAL AT STEEL: Mandy Barr with some of the new products on store at their Smith St pop up.

REAL DEAL AT STEEL: Mandy Barr with some of the new products on store at their Smith St pop up.

Pop up shops are increasingly becoming a common worldwide phenomenon, and their success is already being seen in Naracoorte.

Mandy Barr, who with her husband David operates the Aqua Steel pop up shop in Smith Street, has reported a fantastic outcome from their experiment.

“Every day we get someone in here telling us how good it’s been, or thanking us for doing this,” said Mrs Barr.

The initial idea for the pop up shop came after her husband David ordered more items than usual from the catalogue, and the Barrs decided to have a space where customers could browse at their leisure.

“It’s difficult to sell things to customers when you’re trying to describe something in a cardboard box,” said Mrs Barr.

With their pop up store in the main street, regular customers can browse more merchandise, and new customers have also been attracted to the displays.

“It’s more user-friendly,” Mrs Barr says of the store.

“Before, in the main shop (12 Hinckley Street), we would get people who knew what they wanted, they were there for a reason.

“Here we get people coming in and having a look, and tourists as well.

“I’ve been in retail for the past 38 years, and a lot of it has changed. Retail methods have changed, we constantly have to keep it interesting.

“But one of the things that hasn’t changed is that you have to think of it as a service, you have to think of the customer.”

The Barrs have found that since their pop up store has been so popular, they’re considering whether or not to permanently stay, depending on associated costs.

Sandy Talbot, the President of the Naracoorte Lucindale Business and Tourism Association (NLBTA), had similar views on the benefits of pop up shops. 

Mr Talbot described pop up shops as a “win win” situation for retailers who want to sell their product without excessive overhead costs, and landlords who don’t know what to do with an unoccupied shop front.

Using innovative measures to bring more tourism and business into the town has been on the agenda of the NLBTA and Naracoorte Lucindale Council for some time, and these organisations have been proactive in their approach. 

One of the biggest initiatives undertaken by the NLBTA and the Council has been the Caves Connection project, and Mr Talbot believes that there could be a stronger link between the World Heritage site and the township by a pop up shop featuring information and souvenirs from the caves.

Mr Talbot pointed out that something like the Taste Festival, (which is sponsored by the NLBTA), is highly popular with tourists and locals alike, with stalls consistently selling high volumes of wine and food.

Pop ups (or even food trucks) which sell food or beverages is something that Mr Talbot suggested could become a future part of the Naracoorte-Lucindale district.

"I just don't like to see empty shops," said Mr Talbot. As well as providing a dispiriting atmosphere for locals, they could possibly turn off tourists.

Mrs Barr agreed, stating that when shops were closing in the main street, it caused a great deal of concern for consumers and retailers, with many shoppers casting their eyes to Mount Gambier for bargains.

But shops are starting to bounce back, and Mrs Barr believes that there’s a “positive vibe” in the town at the moment.

“Naracoorte has such a variety of products and niche markets,” she said.

“Timing is everything with a retail shop, and we were lucky that we did this right before Christmas, but I sometimes wish we’d done it sooner.

“So many people out there have been talking about how we’re bringing colour into the main street.

“It has to be a community effort. You can’t tell people where to shop, but you can ask that they can have a look around before they consider shopping out of town.”

As well as businesses being determined to try new things, the NLBTA have also been hard at work promoting the region.

The committee are currently in the process of distributing 40,000 tourism guides, which will be stocked in the Naracoorte visitor's information centre and surrounding shops and eateries.

They have also released a TV ad, which is being broadcast in northern SA (in districts such as the Riverland) and Victoria.

According to Mr Talbot, these are the prime tourist markets for the region. As previously reported in the Herald, this summer has seen most of the regional and rural visitors come from Victoria.

A new racetrack at Tailem Bend could see an increase of visitors from across the border, as they make their way to the Mallee town. 

Pop up shops and more activity in Naracoorte and surrounding towns could entice these visitors to spend more time in the region, reasoned Mr Talbot.

For Mandy Barr, as well as social media changing the retail landscape for the better, pop up shops serve a variety of uses.

They can help stores which are closing down get rid of excess stock, let retailers test new products, and even entrepreneurs with their own line of products can experiment with a storefront.

“It’s about giving it a good Aussie go,” she said.