Looking for a way to generate brand buzz with the cool kids? The Vacant retail concept might be your answer. Vacant is a store/gallery hybrid aiming to preserve urban retail’s cutting edge by setting up temporary stores (no two are alike), filling them with limited-edition streetwear, action figures and toys that are unavailable in the host city, and holding in-store events to draw traffic.
The concept launched in February 2003 with a single store in Manhattan’s trendy Soho shopping district. Owner Russell Miller says more than 20,000 people waltzed through the shop’s doors before it closed a month later. Since then, temporary stores have popped up in London, Paris, Tokyo and Los Angeles, and a permanent Vacant Annex is opening at Manhattan boutique Memes this month.
Vacant stores stock unique crossover merchandise, so you’ll often find branded product that’s been customized by local artists. A good example is the Puma Paintura Project, which was showcased at the first store in New York. Twelve Puma soccer balls were spiffed up by hot new artists and sold at an evening lounge event.
The stores primarily attract shoppers in the 18 to 35 range, but Miller says he sees younger kids in the stores looking to pick up exclusive product from the likes of Nike and Ecko, as well as hard-to-find toys such as the Caterpillar Footwear limited-edition action figure.
Interestingly, Vacant is getting into manufacturing this month with the launch of toy and sneaker plants in China. Plush and vinyl SKUs will dominate the toy output, and Miller is also looking to forge partnerships with kids entertainment brands such as Kids’ WB! and Nick. He says crossover products are ‘what the next generation’s looking at.’
Vacant gets the word out through a grassroots network that includes roughly 1.4 million website (www.govacant.com) members, who are notified two days prior to each store’s opening. Miller adds that he tips local media off a few days earlier than that to seed the market.