The empty storefronts are everywhere, but a new concept born of desperation is now fueling a new wave of retail entrepreneurs. Landlords now rent out storefronts in high rent districts for a month, a week, or even a night.
"Two years was the minimum and they just became more creative when so many storefronts went empty," says consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow.
Even big brand names are catching onto the concept. Last year, Toys"R"Us rolled out 90 express stores for the holidays in deserted mall-space. This year, they're opening 600 express stores -- mini-versions of the big store -- in places like San Francisco Center which will generate 10,000 seasonal jobs and rent out two and a half million square feet of otherwise abandoned retail space. There's little to no advertising, which means pop ups pop in, then pop out quietly, making them hard to find.
"They're like, 'Oh we didn't know this was here.' 'Yeah, so tell your friends,'" says Toys"R"Us express clerk Callie Cleveland.
According to the founder of openpopup.com, San Francisco is one of the top 10 pop up cities in the world. Most operate under the radar and are open for only an average of 20 days.
The latest trend is for restaurants or chefs to open for a night or a week in an art gallery or a business renting space to give out free food or wine as a new kind of billboard. It's a trend that may be here to stay with the Twitter crowd.
"Landlords are going to find there's a great deal of success beyond filling that empty space, that it actually brings consumers into shopping areas more often because they like to see new and different things," says Yarrow.