Pop-up shops are a great way to test out your ideas, build your brand and make sales without the cost and commitment of permanent premises. They also invigorate empty high streets and spaces.
Pop-up is nothing more than a short-term retail let. You see pop-ups appear every year before Christmas, selling cards, paper and gifts. You see them on tourist strips in summer. But pop-ups can appear at any time of year and new technologies mean that it is cheaper and easier than ever to get started. Here is our guide to popping-up in style and on budget.
Keeping it real
Retail traffic is changing direction. Businesses are now more likely to be moving from clicks to bricks than the traditional route of adding on online store to a physical shop. And they are bringing digital business models with them. A beta or testing stage is second nature online, pop-up brings that concept onto the street. Those retailers are finding that in the age of internet sales, there is still a lot to be said for meeting real customers face to face. Online analytics may help you to fine tune your offer, face to face customer relationships can help keep it meaningful.
How to find pop-up shop space
The best place to pop-up is in an area where a good number of your target market hang out. Start there, look out for empty premises and then find and approach the owner. Remember you will be doing the landlord a favour. Some income is a lot better than none and your buzzing pop-up will help liven up the area. So negotiate.
Look for a short-term lease that includes insurances and service charges and that has break clauses. Specialist networks like Pop-up Space and the Empty Shops Network can help with finding premises and legal issues if necessary.
Cool pop-up store concepts
You don’t need to spend a fortune fitting out the premises. Current retail trends are minimalist and industrial: themes that work to your advantage if you’re on a tight budget. Have a look at this pinterest board to see what you can do with a few crates! Cheap shouldn’t mean unprofessional though, always keep the premises scrupulously clean and tidy.
Pop-up is all about original ways of thinking about a store. Here are some other concepts worth considering:
Whether it’s a food truck, fashion stall, book van or massage trailer — going mobile is the ultimate way to pop-up. You could hire a vehicle for a limited time, or adapt your own van to fit in with opportunities. Mobility can enable you to try out a range of different environments. This could be part of your market testing stage or for a growing number of businesses it is the whole concept.
You could play up FOMO (fear of missing out) by keeping your pop-up exclusive for a limited time. From a couple of days to a few weeks, playing-up exclusivity can add to a sense of mystery and desire.
Space within an existing store
A growing number of high street stores are keen to pep-up their image by welcoming in street smart pop-ups. For example Topshop and Topman have a pop-up area for indie brands. The internal pop-up can also be applied to offices, who are often happy to let pop-ups set-up in a common area in return for a charitable donation.
If there are calendar events that are particularly relevant for your business, then it could be worth orientating your pop-up around those. For example, any floral related pop-up is bound to do well around valentines day. The run-up to Christmas is prime time for any kind of gift-ware. Vegan businesses could pop-up to cash in on the annual veganuary boom.
Keeping costs down
You can also create bold and flexible signage with PVC banners, like the shop in this picture has done. Those banners will last for years and you can roll them up and store them compactly between events.
You can create professional looking marketing materials on a tight budget with Canva. It’s a low-cost and easy to use design platform, where you can create a brand image and use it to design flyers, social media graphics, banners and more.
Getting paid has become a lot easier in the last couple of years too. You can now get a secure contactless card reader like the Sumup card reader, which has no upfront costs at all, you just pay a micro-slice of every transaction.
Creating a buzz
Make the most of this opportunity to engage with customers and promote the brand, as well as making as many sales as you can of course. Have a launch event and make it an occasion not to be missed. It helps if you can get some big names or influencers along, offer refreshments and have great music. Use social networking to start building your buzz early and entice your followers along with great content and offers.
It can take longer than you’d think for people to notice a new shop. I recently found a great new place on a street I walk down at least once a week: “When did you open?” I asked. “Eighteen months ago!” Blow me down with a feather. It’s never enough to just open the door. Have A-stands in the street outside if you can, hand out leaflets, let your music waft out and try to make the shop look inviting and busy.
Keeping in touch
Before you vanish back to cyberspace or to plan your next pop-up, make sure that you have a way of keeping in touch with all those new customers and devotees. From day one make sure that you have a method for collecting email addresses. Usually you will need to offer incentives for emails, like loyalty discounts or prize draws. Pop-ups by their nature offer an added incentive: you’re scarce, you won’t always be around, if you can’t let them know where you will be next they will ‘miss out!’
Images: CC via Flickr by Elizabeth Taylor and Fairphone