The Pop Up Expert Excites CUC Students


By Maci Killman

l-r Stephen Brooks, Marge Johnsson, Emily Carpenter, and Linh Trinh

CEO and founder of The Pop Up Expert, Stephen Brooks, brought life to a lecture hall on a Thursday evening on the Sept. 21st at Concordia University Chicago (CUC). What can sometimes be a drowsy and tiresome end to a long day for students became animated with an English accent on why retail is still alive. Malls may be a dying community, but the retail industry is not. In the first of CUC’s College of Business Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s Expert Third Thursday Entrepreneurship Speaker Series, retail industry expert, Stephen Brooks explained why retail and thriving.

“Technology itself is not the real disrupter, being non-customer-centric is the biggest threat to any business,” said Brooks. Retail, at its core is shopping and online retailers, such as Amazon, have become masters of customer-centric service and operations. According to Brooks, Amazon currently spends $3 billion on video content, and he advised retailers and all businesses to post video content to social media as an interactive, engaging way to introduce and showcase what the business is selling. This is especially essential, for pop-up store with only a limited timeframe.

Brooks pointed out that despite the prevalence of online purchasing, the essentials of shopping haven’t changed much since the introduction of shopping malls in the 1950s. “Retail is still all about engaging with a consumer,” he stated. Consumers still shop for best value, still shop locally, and still desire excellent customer service.

According to Brooks, “78 percent of people want to touch, feel, and engage with a product before buying.” This is an opportunity for bricks-and-mortar retailers to intentionally interact with consumers, from the moment they pick up a product, to their exit from a dressing room, and their decision and attempt to purchase at a check-out counter. People will return to the store and buy again, if they felt that they received great customer service.Brooks Speaking

Brooks even considers partially empty shopping malls as a strategic retail opportunity. This is where Brooks introduces pop-up stores or stores that stand-alone. Selling your product with no wall-to-wall neighbors allows people to more quickly make purchase decisions, as there is less temptation to comparison shop at another store.

From the Q&A session at the end of the speaking event, Brooks’ reply to one question from the audience shed light on why pop-up stores are doing so well in the U.K. compared to the U.S. pop-up stores. According to Brooks, the administrative process for opening a pop-up store in the U.S. is much more complicated than the UK. Brooks stated that landlords in the U.K. require “two sheets of paper,” to get started and are welcoming of short-term leases as opposed to vacant retail space, whereas in the U.S. landlords and malls are still holding out for longer-term retail leases and require would-be pop-up retailers to fill out extensive paperwork before even finding out the rental price for the desired location.

In closing, Brooks advised all businesses to utilize the pop-up retail model to “Test before you invest.” Testing your products for 16-18 weeks allows enough time to determine whether your products are selling well and whether consumers return to the business as repeat customers. This is also a good way to test a turn-around concept or the geographic expansion of a business. “Entrepreneurial life is about taking a risk,” Brooks declared.

Stephen Brooks will be conducting his “7 Secrets to Success” hands-on workshop at CUC’s College of Business on Saturday, October 21, 2017. Contact the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at for more information about registration and a limited number of free scholarships.

For more information about check out Stephen Brooks’ website Connect with Stephen Brooks on twitter @StephenABrooks, Instagram @stephenabrooks, or LinkedIn to learn more about the pop-up retail expert.