Journey down Union Station’s Front Street Promenade and be enticed by the variety and uniqueness the retailers have to offer. However, some of these stores are not like the others as they’re only in Union Station for a limited time – cue Union Spaces. We had the pleasure of talking with Jessica Lemire, Director of Marketing Activations & Event Sponsorship, who leads the Union Spaces program. “Union Spaces is our rotating pop-up store that strives to showcase exciting, unique, and creative concepts to the visitors of Union Station” explains Lemire. “The space offers an exclusive opportunity to spice up our commuter’s daily journey by featuring an everchanging roster of brands, both local and international, that feature anything from interactive experiences, Canadian product launches and retail concepts!” Lemire adds.
Launched in December 2017, Union Spaces has been one of Lemire’s many successful campaigns during her tenure with Union Station. Since launching, Union Spaces has featured over 32 pop-up retailers. Most recently, Union Spaces welcomed Sparetime – a Canadian owned construction toy and collectibles company, and Mentis – a revolutionary coffee experience. Union Spaces also recently welcomed pop-ups in the Union Market, such as Starting Six powered by Lids – for all your sports jersey needs, and Collective Arts Brewing– a Canadian craft brewery. Most pop-ups in Union Spaces have not only been Canadian based, but smaller independent brands. “As the gateway and heart of the city, we saw this as an opportunity for brands to test out the market, to see if Toronto would be a fit for their products/services, but also offer smaller brands a chance to get discovered” Lemire explains.
Prime locale to boost brand awareness is far from the only benefit that retailers have access to with the Union Spaces program. We had the opportunity to ask Lemire why pop-ups are beneficial to retailers.
“Choosing a retail location and outfitting an entire permanent store can be an expensive and stressful process; we wanted to alleviate this issue by offering a turnkey program to brands” remarks Lemire. “They come in anywhere from a couple of weeks to over 3-month to gain some visibility in the Toronto market, but they also gain support from our team on strategies, including social media and contesting, to bring people down to their store. Pop-ups are such an effective method to raise brand awareness and engage with consumers directly, but also leverage specific holidays to increase sales” Lemire explains. “One of our most recent pop-ups, Gemlet, wanted to see if a downtown location could be a fit for their permanent bracelet offering and jewelry store. Given their success in their first couple of months at Union, they ended up staying permanently and you can now find them in the Front Street Promenade!” Lemire adds.
We asked Lemire what trends we’re seeing for pop-ups.
“We are seeing a lot of testing of new products right now, product reveals and soft launches for entrepreneurs and emerging brands!” Lemire explains. A pop-up is such a great platform to gather data, feedback and thoughts on a product/service and gain insights directly from the public without breaking the bank. Tailoring the store to resonate with your target audience will deliver a more personalized engagement and offer a unique experience each time visitors come” adds Lemire.
Lemire acknowledges that there are specific aesthetic criteria that pop-ups should adhere to for greater customer retention.
“In terms of look & feel, bold and vibrant graphics are making a statement in the pop-up world; they peak consumer’s curiosity, incorporate the brand colours, while staying current. Striking visuals not only capture attention, but they also convey a sense of dynamism”.
We asked Lemire about some of her favourite recent pop-up stores at Union Station.
“We recently had a phenomenal pop-up for Haribo, who came in specifically for a Halloween-themed concept that had a mix of experiential, sampling and sales. They were only here for a couple of days, creating a true “you had to be there” moment which drove crowds of locals, Haribo fans and travelers down to visit the shop. Another favourite from 2023 would be the holiday BodyShop pop-up that featured a larger-than-life Advent Calendar, a conveyor belt that provided daily product giveaways, and exclusive offers. It was such a great way for commuters to learn more about the brand’s Community Fair Trade program! By visiting the ‘Stories of Change’ wall in the space, shoppers were able to ‘peel-and-reveal’ stories behind each product, connecting them with the farmers, artisans, and makers who helped create this year’s holiday collection.”
Thank you, Jessica, for giving us the inside scoop on all things Union Spaces! Make sure to follow Union Station on Twitter and Instagram (@torontounion) and TikTok (@toronto.union) to ensure you don’t miss out on the amazing stores Lemire curates to feature in Union Spaces.