Rap artist and fashion designer Kanye West recently opened 21 pop-up shops in countries around the world, including the United States, Canada, Australia, Singapore, South Africa and Europe, to peddle his new line of Life of Pablo merchandise. For just three days, fans and customers could pick up clothing and merchandise emblazoned with “Pablo” or the name of the city in which the pop-up was located. Lines were long and the merchandise was in short supply – more than a few people were unable to grab any of the rapper’s designs.
There is probably not much that’s unique to the concept of West’s pop-up shops, or the deliberate short supply of items – designers have been utilizing pop-up shops, where the shop is only open for a brief period of time, for many years. And limited stock gives the merchandise a more exclusive feel. What made West’s pop-ups newsworthy is why the stores are getting plenty of attention. It appears, at least on the surface, that West may be a payments visionary, showing the world a preview of the future of retail and payments. West and his customers are way ahead of the curve when it comes to the use of mobile payments – despite accounting for just one percent of all retail transactions in the United States, seven percent of the purchases in West’s Pablo shops were made via contactless payments, making West suddenly look pretty genius. Maybe not Steve Jobs or Henry Ford-level genius, but rather impressive, nonetheless.
Although the United States by no means leads the world in contactless payments usage – Kenya has that distinction, with 59 percent of adults using mobile payments, and 66 percent of all transactions coming from mobile payments – it is somewhat surprising that the Pablo shops with the most contactless payment activity have been in the United States. The San Francisco shop led the way with 28 percent of its purchases made via contactless payments, such as Android Pay, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay. Dallas and Houston each saw a 14 percent contactless payments rate, and Miami had just over 8 percent.
“Want to know what’s coming up in mobile payments? Look no further than Yeezy,” mused Mashable’s Emma Hinchcliffe, using the name West has given to his official sneaker and clothing collaboration with Addidas. However, to crown him king of the future of mobile payments may be a bit premature, but he does seem to have the uncanny ability to know what his customer wants and to make sure he is headed in that direction.
Yet there may be good reasons why West’s consumers seem to skew so far towards mobile payments – their age and where they live. Many of West’s fans are younger – they tend to be millennials, although like most musical acts, he has fans across all demographics – and urban, demographics that both show a preference for mobile payments over older, non-urban and/or rural customers.
So, if West’s fans are going mobile, and apparently in big numbers, it is worth watching to see what he comes up with next. Could KanyePay or YeezyPay be far behind?