Fast-growing experiential agency Salt XC has added some retail expertise to its toolbox with the acquisition of brick-and-mortar retail and pop-up experts Brika.
While Brika has only four full-time employees, it employs dozens more at long-term retail experiences across North America. Founded by Jen Lee Koss (top photo) as an online marketplace in Toronto in 2012, Brika quickly moved into pop-ups and its own stores.
Over the last few years, the business has again evolved into a retail innovation agency / consultancy, helping marketers create and execute unique retail experiences; curating themed collections for brands; and developing branded product lines and white-label shop concepts.
Brika was hired by Walmart’s Walton family to create a curated high-end retail shopping experience for downtown Bentonville, for example, and is currently running “The Art of the Cozy” pop-up store for ski brands in Aspen (which was featured in Goop). Closer to home, Brika also ran hot-dog pop-ups for Maple Leaf Foods at various events around Ontario.
Salt XC, meanwhile, is a Canadian Covid success story. Since opening just before the pandemic started, it has grown to more than 120 full time staff, and now works with more than 20 clients—including Anheuser-Busch, RBC, Xbox, Kraft-Heinz, Coca-Cola and Pointsbet, and has expanded to the U.S.
Salt XC’s strengths lie in data-driven experiences that build awareness and action, said president Jeff Rogers. Brika’s team takes them to a new level in terms of offline experiences.
“We don’t plan to touch the Brika brand,” he said. Salt XC’s operations and clients will bring new opportunities to scale the Brika business with bigger brands, while some of Salt’s clients are looking for more elevated IRL experiences Brika has proven so adept at.
“They have a great reputation in this arena, where clients who are looking to do pop-up retail call them, and they wouldn’t consider us as an option,” said Rogers.
“Brika joining the Salt XC family is a perfect combination for brands looking for the most unique and effective ways to connect directly with consumers in this reshaped retail world we find ourselves in,” said Koss in a release. “The kinds of consumer experiences we deliver are no longer a ‘nice-to-have’ for brands, they are now essential parts of any engagement strategy.”
Many brands are still struggling to bring their online and real-life experiences together to maximum effect, said Rogers. “There are some great DTC brands out there that don’t have a physical presence,” he said. “They need people to touch and feel the product in a unique and interesting experience that makes people come to the store. I think that’s where we can help, in the area of influencer and social media management and content, to drive traffic to some of these experiences.”
At the same time, we’re emerging (we all hope) from an historic period that has generated pent up demand for IRL experiences. “I think the world’s going to explode this summer,” said Rogers. “I think people are just craving to get outside. It’s sad and it’s unfortunate, but there is a lot of empty [real estate] inventory out there on the retail side, and I think there’s some incredible experiences that can be built.”