Clicks and Bricks: Digital brands ‘popping’ up in real-world retail

Five e-commerce brands jump offline to build their brands

Pop-up shops are nothing new in retail. Over the past decade they’ve become a go-to way to introduce new products and drive quick sales and buzz for brands. In 2013, both Sony and Microsoft set up Canadian pop-up shops to promote their new consoles, Magnum’s Toronto pop-up ice cream bar was successful enough to warrant an extended stay and Holt Renfrew hosted a pop-up for the 10th anniversary of Pharrell Williams’ Billionaire Boys Club label.

Now the tactic has also become a way for e-commerce sites to extend their reach into the brick-and-mortar world and expose their brand to consumers in the flesh. Here’s a look at how five digital brands have used the pop-up concept in Canada to bring their online offering into a physical space.

Mixing “clicks and bricks,” opened a temporary store on King St. in Toronto late last month offering wares from its stable of fashion brands, including BCBG, John Varvatos and True Religion. The brand took over a condominium sales centre for its temporary store and focused on deals, with more than 50% off some items.

In a release, CEO Drew Green said the pop-up shop, open through January 31, is a way for the retailer to test the waters of operating a physical store. “We view this as a test that could become part of our longer-term strategy,” he said.


For its latest pop-up shop, called Popify, the Ottawa-based e-commerce site Shopify partnered with Toronto’s BlogTO to curate a selection of products from independently minded brands like Best Made and Canadian companies like Au Lit fine linens. (Pictured right, photo by Andrew Williamson)

Housed in Toronto’s Kensington Market district, the pop-up – which opened Nov. 28 – followed a weekend-long pop-up experiment the company ran during the summer in which it created temporary shops for eight of its brand partners in empty storefronts in Ottawa’s ByWard Market (also home to the company’s headquarters).

Andrew Peek, director of product labs at Shopify said he believes the future of retail is an integrated and seamless experience. “The notion that retail is “only” online or “only” offline ignores the reality that in the very near future, everything will be connected, including both makers and curators of physical spaces – no matter where in the world they are located,” he said.

Frank and Oak

Before opening its new permanent brick and mortar location in Montreal this past fall, the Canadian men’s fashion site tested its customers’ interest in physical stores by opening a pop-up in New York called “The Mile End Shop,” a reference to the Montreal neighbourhood it now calls home.

Frank & Oak also has a pop-up location open on Queen St. in Toronto, the second it has hosted in the city. Last March the retailer partnered with the Drake Hotel on a pop-up shop, featuring a selection of its wares at the hotel.


Vancouver’s Indochino focuses on well-fitting suits for men, which is why it created its Traveling Tailor pop-up initiative.

The program brings the brand’s suit experts to different cities to offer consumers the chance to get measured, select materials for their suits and be styled by Indochino’s in-store stylists.

To date, the brand has hosted Traveling Tailor pop-ups in New York, Chicago, Calgary, San Jose and, most recently, a two-week stint in San Francisco in August.


When San Francisco’s Everlane launched an online Canadian store last March (prompted by a crowdfunding campaign that raised $100,000 to bring the site to Canada), it celebrated with “Not a Shop,” a pop-up store in Toronto’s hipster-filled Dundas West neighbourhood.

In November, the company also invited 400 customers to an event at its San Francisco offices (pictured right) which had been transformed into a pop-up display of its fall collection.

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