How vacant spaces are becoming pop up opportunities for landlords, retailers

  • Sears, Toys ‘R’ Us and Claire’s are just some of the bankruptcy filings in 2018, and brick and mortar stores are still under pressure.
  • Some of those vacancies are rented to seasonal brands, especially during Halloween.

In a hot job market, retailers are offering up a host of perks — like $500 gift cards, vacation prizes, and special shopping days with extra discounts — to potential hires this holiday season.

With unemployment below 4 percent, finding workers to fill the more than 700,000 seasonal job openings has become a difficult task. But the landscape left by struggling retailers is also creating new opportunities for property owners and entrepreneurs, an expert explained to CNBC recently.

In turn, retailers like Kohl's and Target have gotten creative about how to attract seasonal talent, "offering perks… discounts and things to get the best labor in stores," Stacey Widlitz, SW Retail President told CNBC's "On the Money" in an interview.

Adding to that pressure is Amazon – which will raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour starting November 1. The pay hike, combined with "significant" holiday discounts, could take a toll on retail profits this season, Widlitz predicted.

Another hurdle this holiday time of year: The vacant spaces left by store closings. Sears, Toys 'R' Us and Claire's are just some of the bankruptcy filings in 2018, and brick and mortar stores are still under pressure.

Some of those vacancies are rented to seasonal brands, such as Halloween costume company Spirit Halloween, for a few weeks of the year.

"The mall operators now have to be creative…and that's where the emergence of the pop-up shop has come in," she said. "It's no longer just a black hole that you want to fill and an undesirable space. This can be used as an opportunity."

AlexRaths | Getty Images

It's given rise to a new business model for companies like Appear Here, which started in London a few years ago and helps facilitate these temporary pop-up shops. Appear Here is essentially an online marketplace for brands looking for a physical location for a short period of time.

But Widlitz says it's not just holiday focused brands using spaces temporarily to sell their products. Companies of all sizes are utilizing short-term rentals, including "entrepreneurs and startup brands and established brands including luxury brands."

Pop-up shops range in purpose from discovery, experience, and innovation to simply fun, she explained. Entrepreneurs are able to test a concept, while landlords get a stream of revenue, or a buzzworthy event on their properties.

"Some of these brands that are doing this are ending up growing a real store base. So there's massive opportunity for the malls and small brands," said Widlitz.


On the Money airs on CNBC Saturday at 5:30 am ET, or check listings for air times in local markets.