The Return of Retail?

Will new branded experiences and pop-up shops get customers back to shopping IRL?
Patricia DeLuca

June 5, 2021

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This week, 

Harry Potter New York

 opened its doors. People waited in line on opening day to get a glimpse of the megastore, which boasts 25,000 square feet of licensed goods from the franchise. 

Also announced this week is a “

Space Jam” pop-up shop

 at Bloomingdales New York. The shop within the department store will feature exclusive apparel and accessories this summer ahead of the upcoming film release on July 16. 

Will the return of location-based experiences and stores offering special-edition products for casual shoppers and passionate fans be enough to revive the retail market? 

Retail was facing problems pre-pandemic. In 

February 2020

, Macy’s announced it was shutting down 125 stores. Forced closures of retail stores in the early stages of the pandemic only 


 its trouble. The last of the online shopping holdouts eventually shopped via e-commerce to buy everything from clothing to groceries in 2020. But it wasn’t without its problems. According to 


, only 15 percent

of online shoppers were happy with the experience. Delayed shipping and issues with shipping orders were some of the reasons for customer dissatisfaction. 

As more people are getting vaccinated and city lockdowns have lifted, people are looking forward to getting out of the house for any reason, including shopping. Some customers are tactile in their shopping and will venture out to a store to see what’s new (and what’s changed) since the pandemic. Will store lines for casual shopping return, like the opening of Harry Potter New York or Glossier in NYC on any given weekend before March 2020? It depends on how exclusive the product is and how large the store occupancy is. We want to shop, but social distance as well. It may be too early to predict, but it’s promising to hear new retail activations in 2021. 

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