Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
Pokemon Go, the just-launched mobile game phenomenon that I couldn’t possibly begin to explain to you, is already invading fashion. Turns out, people are catching Pokemon while shopping for clothes, and often wandering into stores they otherwise would’ve ignored solely for the purpose of obtaining a rare species. Welcome to 2016!
Because the game requires players to physically move around in the world, sometimes to the point of accidental leg soreness, much of the conversation around Pokemon Go centers around the best places to find them. And often, those places happen to be some of the least likely locations to find a swarm of eager nerds playing nostalgia-based video games.
Against all odds, people are catching Pokemon in Forever 21:
@ Forever 21 with @sydneyallington and while she tries on clothes, I'm catching Pokemon... what a time to be alive pic.twitter.com/ncyIzTRfAW— Reilly (@ReillyWhale07) July 10, 2016
I was playing Pokemon Go at forever 21 & there was one outside so I ran to catch it while I was holding clothes, they thought I was stealing— adelugh (@adxlerrr) July 9, 2016
I was playing Pokémon Go and ended up in forever 21 in fashion fair mall wtf— Gerardo (@Kokosteez) July 9, 2016
There were like 10 Pokemon in @Forever21. @brittsterr made me put my phone away bc I couldn't stop catching them lol pic.twitter.com/mn4JRHo9xJ— BRUH (@ALYSSARAE_) July 8, 2016
I was at H&M when hella pokemon bombarded me and nothing is funnier than the Rhyhorn in the changing room #fabulous pic.twitter.com/pNe6KYR2Vc— Shane F. (@SquareDays) July 11, 2016
Annnnd a majority of the customers in H&M today were just in there to find Pokemon— Enrico V. (@Prince_Varick21) July 10, 2016
When you're just trying to buy makeup @Sephora but all these Pokemon were popping up #PokemonGo @sammysue911 pic.twitter.com/D55eVAFlNd— Brandi Nycole (@BrandiiNycolee) July 11, 2016
*walks into Macys*— Shai (@shaijunelle) July 11, 2016
Worker: Hi. I could help you. What are you looking for?
The Bra section of Macys is full of Pokemon— Nature Dad (@DPotch) July 10, 2016
Found myself a wild #Pokemon at bloomingdales.. The women shopping were like wtf are you doing!? #PokemonGO pic.twitter.com/XFJ7z2SfNK— Stefanie (@stefanie_larchm) July 11, 2016
I walked into an American Apparel today and the guy at the counter was like "do you play that Pokemon go game? There's a balbasaur in here"— Roxanne Daniel (@roxanneueo) July 11, 2016
And this mall, where Justin Bieber was shopping:
When you see @justinbieber at the mall but you're still a Pokemon Trainer at heart pic.twitter.com/TJqsRdUxyb— Brenden Race (@6_brace) July 10, 2016
Stores, of course, have caught onto the opportunity all of this potential foot traffic presents. One T-Mobile location even posted a winky sign that maybe wasn’t given corporate approval:
Ha! Local mall T-Mobile trying to get you to upgrade your phone for Pokemon pic.twitter.com/dkGAyONZai— Mara (@LilBigTrouble) July 10, 2016
An indie clothing store also proudly advertised itself as a PokeStop (a place where players can stock up on items like PokeBalls):
Meanwhile, other stores are actively trying to curb Poke-mooching with signs like this:
"Pokémon are for paying customers only" — friend snapped this sign. pic.twitter.com/BeHh1aqO78— Bobby Cherry (@GoBobbo) July 10, 2016
Sephora even allegedly kicked customers out who were clearly only there for Pokemon Go:
PSA: don't go into Sephora to catch Pokemon because they'll kick you out— Hannah Lit (@hannah_lit) July 10, 2016
Many stores, however, seem eager to monetize this bizarre new phenomenon of customers randomly walking in with absolutely zero intention of purchasing anything. The writer of a Forbes article entitled "How Pokemon Go Can Lure More Customers Into Your Local Business" received a barrage of questions from shop owners asking how they can turn their stores into PokeStops or Pokemon Gyms (places where players can fight each other).
For now, these locations are predetermined by the game developers, but it’s not hard to imagine a future in which enterprising retailers could pay a sum in exchange for becoming one of these hotspots, a la fashion brands getting in on celebrity mobile games to sell clothes.
In the meantime, the lucky stores that are finding themselves overrun with Pokemon are already figuring put how to engage with players. Consider Woolworths, which responded to a customer's Pokemon Go-related complaint with a series of Pulitzer-winning puns:
Hey, if there’s one thing could save the fate of the American mall in 2016, it’s Pokemon.
I'm at the mall and literally everyone is walking around looking for Pokemon I hate 2016— yova (@yovabundra) July 10, 2016