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Temporary stores with leases of less than a year have long been a cost-effective way to promote brands, test locations, and increase a store’s reach, particularly at peak shopping times like Halloween and Christmas. In fact, demand has grown so strong in recent years that in 2009 Christina Norsig set up the first online exchange for temporary real estate, PopUpInsider.com, and just self-published a how-to primer, Pop-Up Retail.

Chains like Toys R Us, which more than doubled its outlets last year by opening 600 temporary holiday stores, have fueled today’s pop-up phenomenon. So have retailers like Calendar Club, which purchased Borders’s seasonal calendar business, Day by Day Calendar Company, for $9.2 million in January, and has built a business based on temporary stores. Last year, pop-up sales reached $8 billion in the U.S., according to a report by Patricia Norins, publisher of Specialty Retail Report, with data from Alexander Babbage. Temporary store sales rose 117% during the 2010 holiday shopping season over the previous year.

This year, with the closing of Borders leaving thousands of square feet of real estate vacant, bookstore owners and other individuals are opening pop-up stores to take advantage of temporary bookselling opportunities.

Pop-up operators A&S Booksellers and Calendar Club are permanent temporary store owners, and as such will likely benefit the most from Borders abandoned space. Over the past 16 years, A&S president Andy Weiss has opened more than 300 temporary bargain bookstores, primarily in the San Diego area, under the A&S brand. He also operates a Halloween business and opened 12 RIP Halloween stores this year. In 2001, when Crown Books went bankrupt, Weiss purchased its name and now brands his pop-up bookstores as Crown Books. By mid-November Weiss will have nine Crown stores, including some in Borders locations, including Mission Viejo and the Santa Anita Mall, both in California. The stores carry books discounted by 50% or more; the categories that work best are children’s, mysteries, parenting, and calendars. “For me going into a Borders site, the customers still think it’s a Borders. So there’s book traffic walking in,” says Weiss. He also finds Borders stores easy to turn into a Crown. “We can walk into a Borders and open it in six to eight days,” explains Weiss. The only drawback is customers looking for new books; he sends them to Barnes & Noble.

As for 18-year-old Calendar Club, which was formerly affiliated with Barnes & Noble until president and CEO Marc Winkelman bought it back in 2009, by the middle of this month it will have 925 Go! Calendar locations and 300 Go! Toy and Go! Game stores, as well as its first six remainder bookexpress bookstores. Of the calendar stores, about 350 will be from Borders’s Day by Day brand out of the 417 stores at the time of the purchase. The reason for the difference, says Winkelman, is that “a lot of malls are not as good as they once were. To open a store and do substandard business is not worthwhile.” Calendar Club will also be in several other Borders locations, including San Francisco and Boise, Idaho, which will feature a quadruple combo of books, calendars, games, and toys.

While some industry reports indicate a weakening in the calendar business, Winkelman says, “Our calendar sales were up a bit last year. From our perspective, they will be up again this year.” Winkelman, who is CEO of Kirkus Reviews and has a minority stake in the Tecolote Book Shop in the Santa Barbara community of Montecito, Calif., also sees strong potential book sales. “There’s lots of opportunity,” he says, “because there’s a void in the marketplace. A lot of malls and downtowns would like a bookstore, and a lot of people still want to own a book.”

Jodi Morrison’s Fleeting Pages, which opened in May for one month, was not only one of the first bookstore pop-ups in a closed Borders, a 24,000-sq.-ft. store in Pittsburgh, but also one of the first to capture the zeitgeist of the times: independents rising up in an abandoned chain store. “For me, it was very particularly about that space and the culture shift in bookstores,” says Morrison, who had originally planned to open a pop-up a year and a half earlier in a Barnes & Noble. Although Fleeting Pages didn’t break even, Morrison says it was successful in promoting other local bookstores—each had a separate section in the store—and independent presses. The store’s bestseller was an 84-page self-published book by local author Eric Lidji, How the Room Came to Smell Like a Rose.

Although Morrison said “no” to a developer who wanted her to open a similar store in Atlanta, Fleeting Pages has spawned other temporary offerings, including a two-day Chicago Book Expo (November 19–20, 2011) being produced by Chicago Writers House and Uptown United. It will bring together 40 independent presses under one roof in a former Borders. A Preface Reading Series will be held the week leading up to the expo.

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