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Meet Anne-Marie Kovacs of Pop Box in Lincoln Park

Today we’d like to introduce you to Anne-Marie Kovacs.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Anne-Marie. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I’m an incurable entrepreneur, digital marketer, and retail veteran. My past experience includes leading digital marketing for companies including yellowpages.com and lasvegas.com, and I have a lifetime of retail experience going back to my family’s business. My history in forecasting business trends and consumer behavior led me to see the need for online retailers to get exposure and the ability to tell their brand story “in person” through a physical retail presence.

While the headlines are crying “retail is dying”, we know that not to be true. It’s simply changing and evolving to respond to how consumers are shopping today. Showrooming, webrooming… These terms are already nearly obsolete. Consumers will shop – and research and compare – wherever is most convenient. We created Pop Box as a new retail concept that responds exactly to that. As a physical showroom for online brands, we help consumers discover and learn about exciting new online brands that might have never hit their radar otherwise. Shoppers can shop in-store or online after experiencing the product in our store.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
There has been a lot of serendipity in this project. But like all new concepts, there’s a lot of tweaking as we adjust to market feedback. We expect to be constantly evolving on that front to respond to the needs and expectations of the brands that showcase with us and the customers who shop in our store.

Pop Box – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Pop Box is a new retail concept for the way customers shop today. We are a showroom for online brands that changes themes every few months. For our first installation, we have transformed into a unique gift shop that presents subscription boxes as gift ideas (the first of its kind). These brands normally only exist online and are excited to have some face-to-face time with customers.

Our model provides online brands with turnkey services that make it very easy and affordable for them to have a physical retail presence when they need it. We provide the space, the displays, merchandising, trained brand ambassadors, marketing and PR, in-store events and all the boring operational stuff.

With our ever-changing pop-up installations, we create that element of surprise and nurture the feeling of discovery that shoppers crave today. Our next installation will be a lifestyle theme that inspires a “fresh start” for the new year. The brands in our installations are carefully curated. If you take a look at the brands showcased in our current “subscription boxes as gift ideas” theme, you will be them to be ingenious offerings. They are also labors of love from their founders and their passion comes through in their product. This is something that doesn’t necessarily translate online, but we get to tell the whole brand story and experience in the store.

We are also very proud to state that half of our showcased brands are innovative companies from Chicago. And, to further foster the sense of “local” and of community, we offer events that relate to the installation’s theme and invite local businesses and professionals to participate. On the design side, we are immensely proud of the amazing young design talent from Columbia College Chicago who helped us design and builds the store. It’s colorful, fun and photogenic. It displays our brands’ product beautifully and doesn’t look like anything else out there.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
To me, success means that we have created something that the market responds to enthusiastically. That means that customers are enjoying the discovery of exciting new brands and it means that our participating brands are seeing the value of the physical exposure that the store is providing them. Brands are now knocking at our door and we can’t wait to include them in our next installation.

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