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How pop-up shops are keeping in-person commerce alive in the age of online shopping

The coronavirus changed the way we shop and the way stores sell. You might be seeing more pop-up shops; here's how they could boost your budget.

SAN ANTONIO — There is no fancy sign outside. Inside, there is no special décor. But there are lots of sales at The Warehouse Sale for shoes.

All shoes are $40 or less, and the store offers a buy-two-get-one free deal. Walk the aisles and you'll find brands you likely recognize.

“We have anything from Tommy Hilfiger to Tory Burch, Uggs, Michael Kors, Coach,” said Lynnette Maldonado, a sales associate.

The pop-up shop concept benefits the business because it saves money by just renting space for 10 days. That savings gets passed down to customers.

“They get a lot for their money compared to buying the shoes regular price at a retail store,” Maldonado said.

Certainly, price is part of the appeal of pop-up shops, and you can get a good deal. But other advantage for customers is the hunt where you find something unique.

“If you’re lucky enough to see them, grab them if you can,” Maldonado said. 

“Nobody talks about what they spend because everyone talks about what they save,” said Brett Rose, founder and CEO of United National Consumer Suppliers.

His business deals with overstock, past season and closeout goods. He said there is no way to truly replicate the experience of the treasure hunt when you shop online.

“You’re walking out with a cart full of really great stuff because it’s satisfaction and gratification,” Rose said. “It’s the endorphin rush. You’re saving the money right there on something that maybe you thought about buying because you saw it on sale you decided to grab it.”

He said customers have an easy way to tell if the deal they see if really a steal—their smartphone.

“As long as you have it, you’re comparison-shopping.  Even if you’re making a major purchase, you’re still checking Amazon, Best Buy or one of the other people,” he said. “If the prices are off, we’re still smart consumers and every dollar counts.”

He also said it is simple to shop online, but the in-store experience at a pop-up potentially means spending less.

“There’s also nothing like the feeling of the product, testing it,” Rose said. “Returning online is easy, but it’s not as easy as not buying what you didn’t want to begin with.”

Finding a pop-up shop can be tricky, though. Some name-brand products partner with stores to create a small dedicated space in the shop, like Apple has done in some Target locations. Other times, you stumble on them. 

The Warehouse Sale uses a variety of ways to let customers know when it comes to town.

“We have Facebook,” Maldonado said. “We have Instagram and we also have our messaging system where, if they are already signed up as a VIP member, they get a text message once we’re here with a coupon.”

 Just be aware: In this case, all sales are final and there are no returns.

The Warehouse Sale for shoes last through Sunday at the Thousand Oaks Shopping Center.