Kanye West is prone to exaggeration. (This is, after all, the man who referred to himself as “a god” on his second-to-last album.) So when the 38-year-old hip-hop artist and Adidas design collaborator tweeted Tuesday that his surprise, 3,600-square-foot Soho pop-up shop for Life of Pablo merchandise generated $1 million in clothing sales in just two of the three days it was open over the weekend, observers weren’t so much impressed as circumspect.
One such skeptic is Sucharita Mulpuru, a retail analyst at Forrester. “He is known for hyperbole, and given that he is a private citizen and it’s a private business, we may never known the true numbers,” she says. $1 million is an “awful lot” for two days of selling, she explains, marking “the upper end of any Manhattan retailer on a daily basis”; Macy’s Herald Square location moves more than $1 million in product most days, for example, but has more than 2 million square feet of selling space. “I’m not even sure how [West] would be processing that much inventory that quickly in a small format store — it couldn’t even fit $500,000 worth of merchandise unless every item was the size of a lipstick tube,” she argues.
Indeed, photos of the shop show a sparsely stocked space, with a handful of racks lining the perimeter. (Those store associates must have been restocking at lightning speed.)
Prices for Pablo merch ranged from $35 for blue and red beanies that read “I Feel Like Pablo” to $400 for a pair of distressed jean jackets, with the average price clocking in at $116.50. Assuming West sold more merchandise on the days the store was open longer (the pop-up was open for four hours on Friday evening and eight hours on Saturday and Sunday), he would have needed to sell $62,500 worth of goods, or about 536 items, an hour. (To break it down even further, that’s about nine items per minute.)
Seems impossible, no? But Russ Miller, founder of pop-up retail specialist Vacant, which has worked on stores for several high-profile musicians including The Beatles, and Ana Pelucarte, co-founder of Pop-Up Mob, which has worked with French luxury fashion house Mugler and men’s streetwear brand Zanerobe on pop-up shops in downtown Manhattan, believe it is possible, given the reported level of demand for Pablo-branded goods, particularly among resellers. In fact, both noted that the Supreme store a few blocks over on Lafayette Street has likely generated similar, if not better, sales numbers on some release days. (A spokesperson for Supreme did not respond to a request for comment by press time.)
But even if West’s $1 million claim isn’t bogus, he certainly didn’t take home nearly that much cash. “When you rent in such a prime location for only three days, the price is going to be very high, plus you need five times the staff a typical 3,600-square-foot location would have,” Pelucarte says, estimating that the total operating cost was somewhere in the $100,000-$300,000 range. Even assuming the margin was higher than the 50-60% retailers see on most full-price items — and indeed, many of those who bought merch from the pop-up noted that the $45 T-shirts looked like $4 T-shirts that had been screen-printed — total profit probably rang in at about $300,000, she estimates. That won’t put much of a dent in West’s alleged $53 million in debt.
While $300,000 seems like a comparatively paltry sum at the end of the day, there’s no doubt about it: West’s pop-up venture was a triumph. “If you ask me, it was a success,” says Pelucarte. “Pop-ups are used for press and media, and If you break even, it’s already a success.”