POPP, an online retailer offering “the most complete selection of craft beer that you can find on the island”, is taking the next step in its mission to democratise good quality beer and drinks by opening a brick-and-mortar outlet in Gzira.
POPP originally started in November 2019, emerging from a discussion between a leading importer of craft beer and Miguel Cachia, a brand designer, about the possibility of collaborating by combining their skills to create an online craft drinks and snacks store.
“After putting the idea on the backburner for a couple of months,” relates Mr Cachia, “we saw the pandemic approaching and realised that it would be the right time to launch a home delivery platform for good drinks - especially when all bars were closed and everyone was locked down.”
He explains that the rush to get the concept ready meant that he pulled out all the stops, until the website, systems, and brand were up and running.
“I basically locked myself in, with just a few hours of sleep every night,” he laughs.
It worked, and POPP was launched on 1st June 2020, with orders coming in from all corners of the island.
Asked to describe the brand, Mr Cachia says that the shop is meant “for those who don’t settle for the ordinary and like to enjoy the nicer things in life,” adding, with a mischievous grin, “but not in a poshy way.”
He characterises POPP as “a fun, informal brand that offers a top-quality product with great customer service, but doesn’t take itself too seriously”.
Now, on the brand’s one-year anniversary, an announcement posted to Facebook revealed that POPP would be opening the shop at “some point this summer”.
The shop, it said, would be offering its “full selection in a nicely designed shop with easier pickup options, beer taps, and cold beers”.
The move comes at a critical juncture, with the COVID-19 pandemic leaving a deep negative impact on the retail sector.
The general trend, in fact, is very much in the opposite direction, with physical retail stores expanding their online offering to counter the effects of restrictive measures intended to halt the spread of the virus.
Physical locations also come with their own set of significant costs, with rent, refurbishment costs, staff and electricity needing to be paid whether or not sales are being made.
In such a context, why is POPP adopting a ‘clicks to bricks’ approach?
Mr Cachia says that, “luckily, the pandemic is an opportunity for creative people.”
“Locally it has accelerated the shift in the market towards more specialised offerings and quality-oriented businesses,” he explains.
“Since we sell speciality products and we’ll be offering a different concept, we feel it will be well-received by our audience and the pandemic should not interfere too much with that.”
Mr Cachia says that the idea behind the brick-and-mortar store is to give another, physical, dimension to the brand, with the outlet offering a hybrid concept, with a primary focus on retail but with an eye on the experiential, operating as a craft beer bar where customers can have a cold one with friends.
“We also want to make the products more accessible to our audience,” he says. “Our products are not commercial brands and most of the time one would not be familiar with them.”
“So it's nice for the customer to be able to interact with and also try these beautifully designed products.
Opening a physical location does not mean that POPP will abandon its online-first mentality, and Mr Cachia is adamant that technology plays a crucial part in the brand’s business outlook, allowing the team to offer a superior level of customer service “as everything is hooked up and easily coordinated”.
He believes that the outlet will allow the shop to reach out to new clients and introduce them to a world of amazing drinks and snacks “that they’d love but would probably never even know existed”.
He points out that it might seem “a bit of a daunting task” to choose from the shop’s selection of over 250 craft beers online.
“At the store, however, customers will be able to get some help and insight from us directly.”
POPP is currently looking for a shop manager to handle day-to-day shop and online operations.
If you’re an open-minded team player with an interest in quality drinks and food, apply here.