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New Pop-Up Concept Helps Fill Vacant Retail Real Estate

Pop-up shops are proving to be a welcome remedy for the troubled retail real estate sector, as a new concept store from HiO opened Thursday at Brooklyn’s City Point shopping center.

It’s HiO’s third such pop-up organized in North American with the goal of introducing European and other overseas brands to consumers hungry for newness amid a sea of mass-market labels. A previous shop in Toronto’s Eaton Centre closed in April, while other stores are ongoing in Sherway Gardens—Toronto’s largest retail mall—and the Roosevelt Field Mall in Garden City, N.Y.

Like many of the trendy pop-up concepts dotting urban centers today, HiO focuses on “curating” top brands and experiences designed to entice shoppers to make the trip to a physical store. The participating brands carry a range of merchandise to appeal to a variety of consumers.

Britain’s Emma Lomax makes embroidered bags, while Hawkers, also British, offers design-forward, accessibly priced sunglasses. Portugal’s Parfois carries women’s handbags and accessories; Compagnie de Provence makes natural bath and body products in Provence; Sweden’s L:a Bruket makes “coastal skincare”; and a selection of writing tools, bags and accessories are on offer from Italy’s Campo Marzio. Scent enthusiasts will find fragrance oils and diffusers from Skandinavisk. Moleskine, purveyor of notebooks, is in the mix, as is millennial-friendly makeup line Winky Lux, which currently has a standalone pop-up—complete with $10 tickets to “explore the experience”—in SoHo.

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There’s considerable industry firepower behind HiO, which is operated by Direct Brands Group (DBG). DBG counts among its executive leadership Larry Meyer, who previously helmed Japanese fashion chain Uniqlo, was the executive vice president of Forever 21, and served as CFO of both Gymboree and Toys’R’Us. Since founding New York City agency SGN Group in 2006, CEO Sever Garcia, also on the leadership team, has aided international brands like Desigual and Mango in penetrating the U.S. market. As chairman of JLL’s global retail leasing broad, C. David Zoba brings valuable real estate connections, while Herb Kleinberger offers 25 years of retail consulting experience, much of it at PwC.

HiO’s format helps brands reduce the cost of establishing a presence, albeit temporary, in a new market.

According to the pop-up platform’s website, the company has “access to 250 brands” and its pop-ups are designed to enable “delightful and surprising experiences” focused on creating “moments” that include the now customary sips and bites found in sticky retail concepts.

“There are concepts in the Middle East and Asia…making it easier for foreign brands to come into the country, but that hasn’t existed in the U.S.,” Meyer told CNBC. “Our goal is to provide that background, making it easier for retailers to get a start and facilitating incubation as businesses evolve, and as the margin structures are more clear.”