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The Daily Northwestern

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Swantiques shows promise of pop-up retail in Evanston and beyond

Shun Graves/The Daily Northwestern
Swantiques, a Skokie-based vintage furniture warehouse, opened a pop-up store on Main Street in Evanston that will shutter Dec. 10.

For visitors of Swantiques on Main Street, the store’s display of mid-century modern furniture may seem timeless — but its pop-up retail format is just as timely.

The Skokie-based vintage furniture warehouse opened its Evanston pop-up store Nov. 10 and will operate Thursdays through Sundays until Dec. 10. The store, which features displays by other local vendors, provides a new retail option for Evanston residents during the holiday season.

“We do pop-ups wherever we can, mostly in Evanston,” store associate Monica Gunther said. “We’ve had one in Edgewater. We’ve had a couple in Andersonville.”

An eclectic selection of tables, lamps, paintings and even a set of decorative spears greets visitors. With unique goods dating mostly from the 1960s and ’70s, Swantiques has temporarily transformed an otherwise unfinished space, according to Katherine Gotsick, executive director of the Main-Dempster Mile business district.

“When there’s not a pop-up in it, it looks unfinished,” she said of Swantiques’ storefront at 518 Main St. “It looks like an empty space. It just so happens that Swantiques has done a beautiful job in an industrial setting.”

Swantiques also features other rotating vendors within its temporary space. On Sunday, boxes of LPs from a local records vendor sat alongside 20th-century furniture.

This year, the pop-up comes at a critical juncture for retail, both in Evanston and nationwide. Cities are continuing to grapple with higher retail vacancy rates compared to levels before the pandemic. And, local reports of slumping sales despite strong consumer spending nationwide, haven’t helped either.

“It will 100% generate foot traffic that would not have been there otherwise,” Gotsick said.

National reports show that pop-up retail in America has seen a post-pandemic renaissance. A Capital One report released in June predicts pop-up shops could rake in revenues north of $95 billion in 2025, up from a current annual value of $80 billion.

“Pop-up retail creates a general sense of excitement and newness, especially in spaces that may have been experiencing vacancies,” said Amanda Lai, director of food industry practice at Chicago-based retail consulting firm McMillanDoolittle. “It creates a sense of urgency and draws customers to check out a store because it’s only there on a short-term basis.”

But, the model also poses challenges, Lai said. There are significant upfront costs for retailers of setting up and moving into a brick-and-mortar location for just a few weeks.

For retail landlords, pop-ups bring inherent risk because of their short-term nature. And a pop-up store’s temporary occupancy may present a “missed opportunity” for a year-round retailer, such as at Swantiques’ often-vacant location, Gotsick said.

Pop-up retail may still hold an important role as one of the retail industry’s latest innovations. As a form of event-based retail that seeks to draw customers for the experience, pop-ups like  the Coach pop-up this fall on Northwestern’s campus can serve as events in and of themselves. 

At Swantiques, Gunther called the pop-up’s opening event on Friday evening a “big seller.”

“Bringing another store to the community even for a little bit is helpful,” Gunther said. “It just brings the crowds. It brings them excitement.”

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X: @realShunGraves

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