If you happened to find yourself strolling along New York’s Fifth Avenue last weekend, you may have noticed the throngs of (mostly) millennials between 18th and 19th Streets. With a video taping outside and what appeared to be a daytime disco taking place inside, young women lured by social media—and the just plain curious—lined up to to check out the action.
The attraction: The Period Shop, the world’s first pop-up (follow the hashtag #periodprojects on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to see the fun) dedicated to all things menstrual. Created by the U by Kotex brand, it was part of The Period Projects, a multi-year program and project series to change the conversation and destigmatize feminine care. Women of all ages checked it out (we spotted some 10-year-olds during our visit) while men were welcome too.
— Josh Gondelman (@joshgondelman) May 13, 2016
Running all weekend, from Friday through Sunday evening, The Period Shop’s activities included a free ice cream bar and “chill lounge” (complete with tampon-like pillows), a selfie-taking station, period-themed nail art, massages, music and DJ sets—even a comedy night (title: “Periods are Funny”) to kick off the weekend.
The shop featured made-for-Instagram neon signs and slogans such as “OMG PMS” and “Go with your flow” plus artwork by the likes of Gemma Correll (at top) plus a curated retail selection of spot-on products to buy greeted visitors at the entrance, all from female-owned brands.
The shopping section sold an array of feminist (and cheeky) items appropriate to the theme, from apparel, including t-shirts, PJs and undies, along with chocolate, phone cases, socks, jewelry, mugs, bags, water bottles, pillows, notebooks — and of course, pads, tampons, liners and products from U by Kotex. Guest brands included ban.do, Baggu, Gullah Girl Tea, HelloFlo and more.
Visitors were invited to share their thoughts on periods on the wall, while tweets were added throughout the weekend:
— U by Kotex (@ubykotex) May 16, 2016
“There are thousands of stores for women’s clothing, makeup and clothes, but none that are focused on periods or the period experience,” said Sarah Michelson, a student at NYC’s Fashion Institute of Technology who’s been a brand ambassador for U by Kotex since February, when she issued a call on Tumblr outlining what would become The Period Shop.
“I wrote a Tumblr post [featured on the wall of the shop, below] calling for the creation of a Period Shop — a space where women can shop for feminine care products while feeling comfortable, safe, respected … and also have a little fun,” she stated in The Period Shop press release. “U by Kotex read my vision and I am beyond thrilled that the brand responded with an opportunity to partner to bring it to life!”
Sarah’s challenge to brands:
GUESS WHAT? I’M CALLING FOR A PERIOD SHOP!!!! I want a space where we can feel comfortable and respected during an otherwise shitty time of the month. My dream period shop has: designer pads/tampons – ice cream – heating pad/phone charging station – mani/pedi stations – live dj obvi – and sweatpants. HOW AMAZING WOULD THIS BE? Every woman (cis or trans) will be welcome to bask in this glory!! THINK ABOUT IT LADIES!!! SOMEONE MAKE THIS HAPPEN!!! — Sarah M. February 25, 2016 via Tumblr
“One of the most inspirational parts of Sarah’s post was when she said we need a space where we’re respected,” Crystal Boersma, the project’s lead creative director from Organic, told Adweek. “When I run out of lipstick, I’m really excited to buy more lipstick. And I should have the same excitement to replace my tampons or pads. So a bright, open space dedicated to this is long overdue, and we’re really excited to be the ones to make it happen.”
— U by Kotex (@ubykotex) May 17, 2016
All proceeds from the sale of items The Period Shop are being donated to Susan’s Place, a transitional residence for homeless women.
As part of the brand’s goal of driving sampling with giveaways, anyone not in New York could purchase a mini-version of The Period Shop at Jet.com and HelloFlo.com, while others curious about the event followed along on social media throughout the weekend (and even asked if the Period Shop could come to their hometown).
It was a radical move by Kimberly-Clark, which created the feminine care category by launching the Kotex brand almost 100 years ago. Each day, nearly a quarter of the world’s population choose their brands such as Kleenex, Scott, Huggies, Pull-Ups and Depend. Yet making buying menstrual products an open, everyday act (how many women bury that box of tampons in their shopping baskets?) requires bold moves—with a sense of humor and irreverence—such as this.
For more insights, we spoke with U by Kotex Brand Manager Lauren Kren.
brandchannel: Lauren, congrats — the Period Shop was packed and clearly a hit when we checked it out on Saturday. How did it do from your perspective?
Kren: Great! More than 5,800 people experienced the shop in person – though many more through social using #PeriodProjects. Almost 40,000 samples were requested over the weekend as a result of the Period Project’s launch and the opening of The Period Shop. The U by Kotex brand gained nearly 1,400 new followers to our social platforms.
BC: What kinds of change are you hoping to inspire in terms of attitude, self-confidence and a lack of secrecy or shame about feminine care?
Kren: Since the U by Kotex brand launched in 2010, we’ve been all about pushing boundaries and driving change as well as positively advancing the way women think about and experience feminine care. We are seeing people continuing to become more and more comfortable talking about periods. We were thrilled to see 2015 dubbed as “The Year of the Period;” and that we’re beginning to hear people refer to 2016 as “The Year of Menstrual Change.” This demonstrates the shift we’re continuing to see surrounding the period and feminine care conversations.
BC: What are the biggest challenges in displacing old fears and prejudices?
Kren: At U by Kotex, we know women have a lot of passion for, and ideas about how to make things better when it comes to periods, period experiences and the feminine care category. Through the Period Projects, we’re looking to partner with some of these women, giving them a voice and helping make their ideas a reality to help create real, positive change – both big and small.
BC: As you note, a big part of this was taking place virtually, on social media — how is that evolving as a platform to challenge perceptions and inspire behavior change in the personal care category?
Kren: We believe digital and social media are channels with growing importance and present opportunities for brands. We see consumers commenting in the social space all the time – that is how we found Sarah, our Period Shop Project Captain (seen below) – and we like to have conversations and engage with them.
BC: What’s next on the drawing board for The Period Projects?
Kren: We have already determined some U by Kotex Period Projects that will be introduced this year — but for competitive reasons, we’re keeping details confidential at this time. Sorry!