After more than a decade of pop-ups, Wired inches toward a permanent store

Over the past 14 years, the Wired holiday pop-up shop has become a fixture in New York. Now, the technology and culture publisher is getting closer to something more permanent.

On Thursday, Dec. 13, the San Francisco-based title will open its 15th holiday pop-up shop on the ground floor of Brookfield Place in lower Manhattan. Sponsored by Verizon, the 2,600-square-foot store will feature products curated by Wired’s editorial staff, from a $25 “kinetic shark kit” to a $1,150 robot bartender. There will also be a separate batch curated by Verizon.

The Brookfield location will only be open until Dec. 22. But next year, Wired is on track to open a permanent store at Newark Airport. The exact date hasn’t been set, but it is currently set for the spring of 2019.

“The Wired store has delivered for Wired, year over year,” said Maya Draisin, vp of marketing for Condé Nast’s culture collection, which includes Wired, Vanity Fair and Pitchfork. “We see an opportunity to branch out.”

While holiday pop-ups have come en vogue for publishers seeking to tap into brands’ experiential budgets, Wired has been doing this for more than a decade. Last year, it branched out past the holiday shopping season with a summer store it opened in Los Angeles, in partnership with the luxury automaker Genesis. It has opened versions of its stores in locations ranging from Manhattan’s Meatpacking District to Los Angeles Airport.

In that time, the strategy surrounding the stores has changed. In the early years, Wired stores were envisioned more as showrooms than actual places to buy products. That changed three years ago after the publisher noticed visitors were more interested in buying. Since then, the store has everything from whimsical items such as a marshmallow crossbow to a Genesis car (though the customer had to head to a dealership to pick it up).

Overall revenue from the store is up 50 percent year over year, though the publisher declined to share hard dollar figures.

This year, Verizon is sponsoring the pop-up. There’s an obvious monetary benefit: The store is part of a yearlong campaign that will manifest across several Condé Nast properties, Draisin said. But there were lots of small design touches in this year’s stores that Verizon’s team improved, Draisin said. For instance, Verizon suggested changes to the original layout design for the store to allow more space for people to congregate around devices, Draisin said. It also changed its plans for the materials they used for countertops that showcased the products.

“It’s so interesting, working with a professional retailer,” Draisin said. “They know a lot about which kinds of products will work in that environment.”

That Wired has started to accelerate its activations comes as no surprise to long-time observers. While publishers are taking cautious steps in the direction of more experiential activations, Wired’s parent company, Condé Nast, has made it clear that it sees events and experiential marketing as a priority in the years ahead, as it leans into creative services as a key stream of revenue.

“They were the first people to really successfully turn their pages into a store,” said Nicholas Balastrieri, the co-founder of Gathery, an experiential consultancy that’s worked with publishers and brands including HBO, Popsugar and W Hotels. “It makes sense that they’re considering turning this creative service exercise into something that’s permanent.”

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