The first sight to greet those exiting the recent must-see show of Anish Kapoor's work at London's Royal Academy was a large poster promoting "the most comprehensive monograph on the celebrated sculptor." This was not a Royal Academy ploy to separate art lovers from their money; rather it was an enticement to enter the stand-alone Phaidon bookstore across Piccadilly, one of four pop-up shops the publisher has opened in recent months, including in New York's SoHo neighborhood.

Founded in Austria in the 1920s, Phaidon moved to England to avoid the Anschluss at about the same time it started to publish large-format art books. Seven decades later it is one of a number of art-book publishers that are borrowing the retail tactics of the luxury-goods trade and opening high-end monobrand stores. That may seem counterintuitive at a time when independent bookshops are closing and big chains are hawking bestsellers. But inspired by an "explosion of interest" in art books, Phaidon CEO Richard Schlagman has decided to use the downturn to try to sell directly to customers and control the retail experience. "It was not something that we were desperately keen to do, but we are enjoying it," he says. "We are getting very good reactions and people are enjoying seeing the whole collection together; we do a lot to make our books very desirable, and a lot of that is lost with chain-store groups."