Kumari Govender of StyleSociety offers consumers a niche shopping experience that highlights a new retail trend.

After running her own boutique in Durbanville, Kumari Govender has transformed her boutique offering into an annual event that provides her existing client base a once-off opportunity at an exclusive shopping experience. Kumari launched the StyleSociety Pop Up Boutique in 2010 and this year hosted the one-day shopping event at the Fire & Ice hotel together with international brands (ghd, Estee Lauder and Hunter boots) and local brands (including Errol Arendz, Silk Orchid and Indhi). ‘I did research in the retail market and found that pop up shops are a growing trend. I decided to try it out last year and it was a huge success,’ Govender explained.

What set it apart from run-of-the-mill flash retail spaces is that StyleSociety offered shoppers a complete pamper experience. On entering, shoppers were treated to mocktails from Vitamin Water or wine from Durbanville Hills and ushered into the ‘styling room’ for a hair and make-up makeover with hair styling by ghd stylists and Estee Lauder make-up artists. Shoppers could then meander through the intimate shopping space to browse through everything they will need to update their summer wardrobe. Brands showcased included underwear from Elle Macpherson Intimates and Maidenform; bright, breezy dresses from Silk Orchid; colour-blocking essentials from Indhi; shoes from Errol Arendz and Hunter boots as well as accessories from Joy and Chloe-Simone’s Balinese jewellery and bikinis. And the final temptation? Skin Clays by Kai body products – made with only natural ingredients.

This is not a quick pop-in and have browse model. Kumari advised guests in their invite that they should set aside at least two hours to ensure that they truly benefit from the ‘styling room’. ‘They come in the morning, have their hair and make-up done. Then browse at the clothes, go to for lunch in the hotel and then return to shop.’ (And they get to take advantage of the vouchers in their welcome pack, which offers discounts for the day of the pop up sale only!)

The retail model is exclusive and will possibly only resonate with a smaller audience, which is how Kumari prefers it – she caps the number of tickets to the event at 1000 and she markets to her existing consumer base that previously shopped at her boutique. This market trusts her and as a result each designer was handpicked by Kumari based on their taste. ‘I know my clients, I know their shopping habits and I know they’ll come to these events,’ she explained.

‘I would like to keep it the way it is. It is exclusive and I don’t want it to get too big and turn into an expo,’ she added. Kumari has done her research and is aware that consumers want to shop, they just want more than a simple transaction for their money – they want a full experience, and perhaps don’t want to be too flash about their spending. This platform offers an intimate environment to spend and enjoy the retail experience. ‘The pop-up model works well for designers because it brings customers to them and they don’t have the concern of shop overheads. They can launch a collection to an engaged audience. It also works for consumers – especially those that want to avoid malls and like exclusivity.’ The model is working because Kumari is currently considering increasing the regularity of the event from annually to twice a year and offering both a summer and a winter pop-up boutique.

Leveraging off the popularity of her blog, StyleSociety, Kumari uses this platform to market the event. She admits to being very ‘online focused’ and uses social media platforms and bloggers to further promote her event. She also prefers to work with brands that she has an existing relationship. She has worked with Indhi for some time having stocked the brand in her store and then taking it to both of her events. It is also used as a platform to showcase new collection launches – Harold Fabian, the Mauritius-based resort brand has now officially been launched in South Africa, complete with tropical print maxi dress and essential espadrille loafers.

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