"[We came] this early because we wanted to support the group... They rarely come here, so of course, we were going to show up."
Similar were many of the sentiments from ARMY waiting in line on an early Friday morning, all prepped in time for the grand opening of the BTS Pop-Up: SPACE OF BTS LONDON. Though it was a freezing two degrees Celsius outside, for many, the opportunity to be in a space decorated for BTS, with BTS products and other related installations was special merely due to the fact that it has been more than a hot minute since the group were in Europe, let alone London.
It had taken six months of planning, venue booking, and inventory organising for the team behind the pop-up store to finally get it up and running, and the fact that it all came together just in time for the Winter Holidays is perhaps a sign that for UK and European ARMY, it was meant to be.
The store was packed to the brim with over 500 different products, from clothing to homewares and Christmas trinkets. However, there was no tour merch or lightsticks in sight: the pop-up offered fans in the UK the chance to buy merchandise from the BTS archive, such as from their "BOY WITH LUV", "ON" and IN THE SOOP collections. Such merchandise is notoriously difficult to get in the UK and many countries in Europe due to incredibly high shipping costs: unless fans utilise group orders (GOs), pay an arm and a leg for aforementioned shipping directly from Weverse Shop (the direct online retail store for BTS and several other artists), or have access to a friend or secondary retailer that can help make shipping costs a little lower, a lot of these products are hard to obtain.
For once, shipping was no worry: if anything, the only thing pop-up attendees now had to worry about was time. To avoid ARMY having to queue for long hours in cold temperatures, the pop-up uses a queue spot booking system. This means with their QR-code ticket, fans are given access to an hour inside the store, and are advised to show up no later than 15 minutes prior to their time slot to ensure all goes smoothly.
Many fans of all ages used the entire hour to their advantage, filling up baskets, video calling non-present friends and family to ask them what they wanted, and taking photos with the installations on offer.
Four main photo installations were set up for BTS photo-ops: a gauze-y purple screen with a neon 'SPACE OF BTS' sign lit up, a space with standees of the BTS TINYTAN figures, blue neon wings that tapped into the spirit of the group's 'Black Swan' music video, and a bright, retro, tropical space in recognition of the group's English-language hit 'Dynamite'. However, there were many other spaces for BTS experiences by way of the large screen that played BTS music videos (which also served as the soundtrack for the store), and BTS artwork that peppered the walls and entrance.
Prices for items were stuck on plaques nearby, but roving staff with scanners easily called up prices for shoppers. The majority of clothing were in sizes M, L and XL, with prices ranging from the £10 stocking-stuffer range, all the way into triple figures for more intricate jackets and larger items. Whilst huge amounts of stock have already been shipped in to cater to as many fans as possible, the large green IN THE SOOP plushie sold out within the first hour. As of writing, new stock is on the way and luckily, the store is set to be open until the 31st of January for those who wish to come multiple times.
Prudent fans completed their shopping quickly before spending their remaining time taking photos; as the hour came to an end, queues for the tills got longer and subsequently so did the waiting times to pay. Despite this, the restriction of 100 customers (as of writing) allowed in the store at any given time, meant that the turnover from the first set of ticket holders to the second was fairly smooth and there were no complaints (if any) to be heard.
Overall, the pop-up was not just a positive retail experience that showcased how potent a global brand BTS truly are; its appearance in UK and European territory made BTS products and in-person experiences more accessible again for ARMY from this part of the world, and demand for the merchandise and pop-up queue reservations shows that the recognition has been appreciated.
The BTS Pop-Up: SPACE OF BTS LONDON seems to have brought much joy to many a visitor, many an ARMY: what perfect timing for Christmas.