Winter Pop-Ups
Retail and F&B concepts take to the desert to wider their chances and get in new consumers. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Pop-up stores at malls and high-street locations have been part of UAE retailers’ strategy for quite some time. But a pop-up in the desert?

Brands are now showing up at least unexpected locations to connect with new consumers – and the winter chill is playing its part as well. That’s what Not A Space is doing by opening a coffee shop in the Al Faya desert in Sharjah.

Their limited-time presence offers a café with the desert as landscape and with mountains in the background. There’s coffee, sandwiches and desserts. The venue also hosts yoga in the mornings and live performances with DJs and musicians.

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It's a vibe

Customers, who spotted the place on Instagram, drive down to photograph their coffee, while sitting on a cushy beanbag watching the sun set. The whole point – from a consumer and retailer perspective alike - is take advantage of the weather.

“I have been seeing Not A Space on Instagram for ages now and have been dying to drive down and visit,” said Nerveen Mubarak, a Dubai resident. “Although the location is only an hour’s drive away from the city, the intrigue is what gets people out of the door and onto the highway.”

These desert pop-ups can immerse consumers in a vibe that goes beyond food and drink. The drive and wait times aren’t just for the coffee – but for the experience. That extends to the music, seating arrangements, branded cups and rugs, mirrors, beanbags and more.

Winter Pop-Ups
The opportunities created lend themselves only to a limited period, but as long as the chill lasts, it's the time to make best use of it. Image Credit: Supplied

Even the government is involved

Brand Dubai, the creative arm of Dubai Government’s Media Office, has launched a pop-up event featuring cuisines from some of Dubai’s most-loved homegrown food outlets. The event showcases the unique concepts of eight business from the ‘Proudly from Dubai’ network, an initiative launched by Brand Dubai to highlight local success stories.

The month-long event is running at the Outdoor Plaza next to DWTC One Central Building 5 until February 25.

Nehal Badri, Director of Brand Dubai, said: “The objective is highlighting home-grown businesses that have achieved success with creative concepts. And support their entrepreneurial journey and growth, especially amidst the current environment.”

Regardless of what the pop-up offers, the strategy is to keep it customer-centric. The reason pop-ups are so successful in the UAE is because they have in them to motivate shoppers to show up. Whether it a new or unique offering, or a simply a space that needs to be photographed, these temporary spaces are there to show us what we didn’t know we needed.

The weather helps

F&B pop-ups are especially popular because of the weather. In summer, retailers find indoor locations to host their pop-ups, while in winter, venues create outdoor spaces to access a larger customer base.

Salt Burger, despite the fact that it has brick-and-mortar locations, continues to pioneer the pop-up movement in the UAE. It launched a winter pop-up - the Salt Campsite - at DIFC’s Gate Avenue. The brightly coloured venue offers burgers, desserts, an indoor star gazing room, photo booths and workshops on art and photography.

“I saw the Salt Campsite on social media and had planned to go there before I even landed in Dubai,” said Maria Fahmy, who is based in Amsterdam.

These winter pop-ups are also a more affordable way to temporarily have a new location. Because the structure is just a space, some cool furniture and a kitchen make it a viable business option for UAE F&B brands who want to reach out to a wider audience.

When the young consumer is constantly craving increasingly novel experiences, businesses have shifted their budgets from traditional advertising to unique brand activations. And what can be more unique than building a winter cafe pop-up in the heart of the desert?