Denver Business Journal: Denver holiday pop-up market cashes in on growing trend

Blake Adams paused and then offered a slight chuckle and explanation of the Denver Holiday Flea.

“We use the name flea tongue-in-cheek,” said the founder of event. “The offerings are far from it.”

Denver Holiday Flea — one of four annual pop-up markets — is part of a growing national trend of pop-ups, carefully curated markets that showcase up-and-coming brands and entrepreneurs. The trend has grown in the wake of brick and mortar stores shuttering — a record 6,700 nationwide in 2017 — and growth in e-commerce retail sales, with holiday retail market share expected to hit 18.3 percent nationwide this season.

“This is an event,” Adams said. “We have spent a ton of time curating the brands in attendance. We have created an environment on trend with the future of where retail is going.”

Adams worked in outdoor advertising. He was seeing pop-up markets in Los Angeles and New York drawing big crowds. He looked around and thought Denver could support such a market.

“We were filling the craft fair sector — but nothing that would appeal to the larger more established brands in town,” he said.

Four years ago, the Denver Holiday Flea was born.

Adams had to beg artisans to participate in the first flea. He persuaded a couple dozen.

This year, thousands of entrepreneurs applied to get a 10 x 10 foot vendor’s spot and pay at least $500 for it. The flea chose 180.

Vendors include custom ski makers, wool outerwear makers, jewelers and artists.

Pop-up, curated markets are the new shopping department stores, Adams said. They were born from a desire to shop with an experience. And they are attracting shoppers. Last year, an estimated 20,000 people shopped over the three-day holiday flea and an estimated $1 million in goods were sold, Adams said.

This year’s Denver Holiday Flea starts Dec. 1 with a ticketed party for adults only and continues Saturday and Sunday in the empty “Sports Castle” at 1000 Broadway, which was Sports Authority’s flagship store until the company went bankrupt in 2016.

The flea has live music, and organizers have partnered with Great Divide Brewing Company and several food trucks.

“You compete with Amazon on price, or you create a one-of-a-kind experience,” he said.”

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