By: Vuyolwethu Dubese

Welcome to your pop up salon, the one that will not be moved (unless come hail or storm), the surprise just around the corner.

A few might argue is that heart of the pop-up culture is not to necessarily sell the products or services of the business, but to also mobilize and manage the brand’s marketing effort by creating hype and giving the business a platform to communicate with its clientele. But what happens when the pop up store, event or restaurant is immobile (pardon this loose term) and is no longer a jack in the box? Is it still part of the community of pop up culture?

When I sport my afro traveling to Belville, Wynberg, Mitchell’s Plain or Cape Town’s CBD, I try to remember to keep my hat or hoodie on. This is because I know there’ll always be that one, or two Ghanaian ladies reminding me that I’m a day away from having a bad hair day and that the collage that they’re carrying is my one way ticket to putting that bounce back in my walk. The collage of random women and celebrities’ hairstyles is a promise of what they can duplicate onto your hair, or sometimes even better.

Once you’re hawked as a passer-by, you’re ushered to a chair that is under an umbrella (or tent) or even the naked sun, for an experience like no other.

Skipping the traditional route of renting premises, paying for electricity and water and suit and tie marketing, these few individuals have a simple strategy for business, and its satisfied clientele keep their business operating.

Although privacy isn’t a part of the service, customers do pocket the affordable pricing, the speedy service and the buzzing, charming atmosphere of the city. The display of the minimalism of the pop up salon is synonymous with the simplicity of the marketing formula presented: word of mouth.

Initially, a pop up store was/is a temporary (the key word) installation aimed at offering an experience that would flirt with the palate of the consumer and once the experience was communicated thoroughly to the consumer, the customer would be satisfyingly groomed to spread the word about the brand and shop would close. But, because of the evolution and effectiveness of this marketing tool, the seduction has translated to the nomadic fashion of pop up being no more, to say the least. Instead, stores are popping up and permanently taking residence in their spaces.

After a hurried 2/3 hours of braiding or weaving your hair, the hair stylist will pull out a fragment of what was once a whole mirror in the hopes to deliver to you her promise of beautiful new hairdo. This is her moment to prove the truth of her elevator pitch, “Unjani sis? You like it? Awumuhle”. A nod and the customer taking her number is enough to verify that she had done well, and that the experience has groomed yet another happy customer to spread the news about the pop up salon, enough to return for another experience. And you’ll find her there next time, at same spot (unless the weather dictates her whereabouts), readily pitching her service to the next unassuming lady sporting her natural hair…

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