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Pop-up power

Grocers are using experiential marketing tactics to drive traffic and engagement

Pop-up stores are the new differentiator — here’s how four grocers are jumping on the trend


Co/Lab, Pusateri’s pop-up program turns the mundane task of grocery shopping into a special experience. Pusateri’s has hosted restaurants and bakeries such as Rosen’s Cinnamon Buns, North Poké, Pukka, and Baker and Scone at its Toronto-area locations. “The rotating pop-ups showcase the city’s best chefs, bakers and restaurateurs and puts them on the main stage in our stores for our guests,” says Paolo Pusateri, manager of brand marketing at Pusateri’s.

The activations are a key part of the grocer’s strategy. Angus McOuat, VP of merchandising and marketing at Pusateri’s says: “We want to continue to push the boundaries and create an in-store theatre of food for our guests.”

Bite Grocery & Eatery, a community-centric grocery store in Calgary, held its first pop-up this summer, hosting mid-century furniture store, Bex Vintage. “We created further allure in our space, supported the local ‘pop-up’ culture and gave a vendor the opportunity to showcase its products in a premium environment,” says Bite’s general manager, Philip Wong. Vintage shopping may have little connection to grocery, but that was the point. “The hope was to gain some new exposure for Bite through the Bex clientele,” says Wong. And anything a retailer can do to attract new customers is just good business.

The Mustard Seed Co-op’s recent pop-up highlighted the Hamilton grocer’s commitment to fair trade. Showcasing fair trade suppliers, products and in-store demos, the pop-up created an environment for customers to learn about these products, increased sales for the Co-op and attracted new customers. “Events like this do bring in additional foot traffic to our store, and our members also learn more about food supply issues,” says Mary Lou Tanner, chair of the Co-op’s board.

Nature’s Emporium has been hosting pop-ups for years. Working with vendors including Vega, Genuine Health and Manitoba Harvest, the Ontario health food grocer uses pop-ups as a way to engage with customers. “It’s a fresh, dynamic experience for our customers, typically combined with excellent promotional pricing,” says Ryan Dennis, director of communications at Nature’s Emporium. Not only do pop-ups encourage regular customers to experiment with new products, but they’re also a draw for new customers. A recent in-store activation with Vega included major prize giveaways and activities that included a build-your-own superfood bowl station, which was tied to an Instagram photo contest.

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