Brand loyalty was the goal for two very different pop-up shops that landed on the streets of Austin during Austin City Limits Music Festival.
On Congress Avenue, Jack Daniel's opened its Lynchburg General Store at the meeting and event space at 800 Congress Avenue. The space has good foot traffic, with a barber shop, charcoal mellowing demonstration and a workshop with a Jack Daniel's barrel master. Kevin Sanders, all the way from Lynchburg, insisted it’s all about the quality of the barrel.
“We want to bring people in here, we want them to have a little fun, but we want them to be educated on the process here,” Sanders said. “They come in and enjoy themselves, but when they leave they know Jack Daniel's. We want them to know we’re a Tennessee whiskey.”
Technically, the Lynchburg General Store isn’t a pop-up shop. It rented existing event space. But the Downtown Austin Association did lobby to amend the current city ordinance for short-term rentals of retail-zoned space to create the more traditional pop-up experience in vacant space. DAA’s step-by-step guide walks potential vendors through the permitting process.
“This change has allowed local, independent entrepreneurs and artists to set up temporary retail stores and art galleries,” said DAA’s Molly Alexander. “Pop-up activations give anyone in the community the ability to test a concept, create an engaging experience and make downtown Austin that much more interesting.”
Tribe: A Pop Up Shop was one of the most successful experiments, Alexander said. Located on the floor above Royal Blue Grocery in the 600 block of Congress Avenue, the shop curated everything from Marfa good luck candles to New York subway posters, leather smoking slippers to children’s dinosaur hoodies. Royal Blue eventually moved and the shop closed.
As for the Lynchburg General Store, this is the 150th anniversary pop-up tour for Jack Daniel's, with stops in New York, Chicago, Miami and San Francisco before this final stop in Austin. Sanders explained the charcoal filtering process and the quality of the American white oak barrel. All of the whiskey’s color and most of its taste come from the barrel, Sanders said.
Behind Sanders, a bluegrass trio is playing on stage. In one corner, people shop for Jack Daniel's merchandise. This is the kind of experience that builds brand loyalty for Jack Daniel's, said spokeswoman Laura Ryan. Around the room, stations are set up for “a little piece of Lynchburg,” from Miss Bobo’s eatery to a charcoal mellowing demonstration to a barbershop with $5 haircuts. Waiters walk about the room with whiskey tastings.
In the evening, Jack Daniel's hosts closed-door tastings with a targeted invitation list. The week opened with an introduction to Tennessee rye whiskey. The week closed with a White Rabbit Saloon Party advertised on Latino radio stations. The goal of the week is to bring the experience of tiny Lynchburg to cities across the country.
“Once you’ve been there, you get it,” Ryan said. “This really brings everything together for brand, bringing everything together that makes Jack Daniel's Jack.”
Five minutes away, another pop-up shop wrapped up its week in Austin. Boohoo, aimed firmly at the college student or festival goer, set up its one-week pop-up shop on the Drag across from the University of Texas.
The store’s vibe, like its Twitter feed, was irreverent, retro and trendy. The store racks held red thigh-high boots, faux fur and plenty of leather, at affordable prices. Tour manager Julie Kijewski said foot traffic for the British import had been solid all week. The on-demand approach tailored to Austin—with four kiosks for quick online orders—found a definite retail niche, Kijewski said on Sunday, the last day Boohoo was in Austin.
College kids are the sweet spot for Boohoo. The etailer took a swing through Florida for spring break. It bounced around college campuses in Texas. And, next week, the tour will be back in Los Angeles across from University of California at Los Angeles, where the pop-up shop began.
“A lot of people do know us,” Kijewski said. “Others, we’re teaching them about the brand.”
Boohoo, unlike Modcloth on Austin’s 2nd Street, has no intention of becoming a bricks-and-mortar store in Austin, or elsewhere. The word of mouth approach keeps the brand nimble and overhead low. And the strategy must work: Boohoo just launched its own makeup line at a price that puts its price point under the brands found at the shopping mall or Ulta.
“It’s just convenient and easy,” said Kijewski, who has spent a month on the road in Texas. “I personally don’t like to try on clothes until I get it in my house, and I make it work.”