How to run a successful pop-up shop

How to run a successful pop-up shop

Posted: Tue 21st Mar 2023

A pop-up shop can be the route to a loyal, engaged customer base, helping you take that first step into the reality of physical space, if you've been trading online so far.

Because customers know the space and set-up is temporary, there's less pressure to make sure the décor and fittings in the space are absolutely right.

You also have a great testing ground for your products and services, as you can ask customers directly for feedback and then use their views to refine your plans going forward.

Setting up and making the most of your pop-up shop is just part of its success. In this blog, we explain what it means to run a pop-up shop and how it can benefit your business. We look at how to plan for it, how to find the ideal location, and how to set up your space.

What is a pop-up shop?

A pop-up shop is a temporary outlet that offers online retailers a unique way to get their products and services noticed. It allows you to develop a physical presence in locations where you might not have had one before, as well as giving you the chance to test the market with little commitment.

Pop-up shops often feature interactive experiences, such as workshops, classes or live performances, which can help engage customers and create an exciting atmosphere for shopping.

These retail spaces are becoming increasingly popular for entrepreneurs and established brands alike, offering creative ways to make an impact on potential customers without breaking the bank.

What are the benefits of a pop-up shop?

Running a pop-up store has a number of business benefits.

  • They're a low-cost way to test your target market and try out new products or services without making a long-term commitment. If the pop-up is successful, you can turn it into a permanent store; if not, you've only invested a relatively small amount of money.

  • You can create an interactive experience for customers and build relationships with them in ways that you wouldn't be able to do in a traditional permanent store.

  • Because they are situated in high-traffic areas with plenty of footfall, there's greater potential for increased sales compared to more remote locations.

  • Since it's a temporary pop-up space, customers are more likely to notice you than they are more established stores.

Who can open a pop-up shop?

With careful planning and consideration of all factors involved, anyone can open a successful pop-up shop. Pop-up shops are used by large corporations and small start-ups alike.

The beauty of pop-up retail is that it's flexible: you can set up shop anywhere – on busy streets in city centres, or in suburban shopping complexes – and create an atmosphere that matches your brand identity and appeals to the customers in your target demographic.

What does it cost to rent space in a pop-up shop?

The cost of a pop-up shop depends largely on what you're hoping to achieve, as well as the location and the type of space. For this reason, it can be hard to give an exact estimated cost.

However, overall the pop-up retail model is considerably cheaper than traditional stores and this reduced investment means a much lower level of risk.

Depending on your budget and business goals, you may be able to rent out square footage in an area with high foot traffic, or assess options such as kiosks or mobile retail stores.

Ultimately, if done right, opening a pop-up shop can be well worth the investment!

What do I need to consider before opening a pop-up?

Before you start scouting locations or investing in card payment software, you should get straight on making a business plan for your pop-up shop.

It's probably just you who needs to see this, but having one is invaluable. Treat it like any other business plan and ask yourself these fundamental questions:

  1. What am I looking to achieve? Write down a goal for your pop-up shop, and set out what defines your return on investment (ROI). Do you want people to sign up to your email newsletter, for example? Would you like to set up meetings with potential buyers? Or is it simply to sell some of your products or services?

  2. Who are my customers, and where do they hang out? If you're selling to commuters, aim for a location near the train station, not the park. If you're targeting teens, get to know the favourite local hang-outs. It's important to research and go for a location that will take full advantage of footfall.

  3. When should I run my pop-up? Again, plan around your customers. If teens are your target audience, the summer holidays may be a great time to set up, but bear in mind that families with younger children will be going away. Pre-Christmas might be great for sales, but is your space equipped for bad weather? Keep it all in mind and plan accordingly.

How do I find a location for my pop-up?

Until recently, pop-ups were relatively unknown, and finding temporary, convenient space wasn't easy. Now many people are familiar with the concept, it's a lot easier not just to research locations, but to ask around and see if someone would be willing to let you set up shop for a short time.

What type of location you need will depend on your business and products. You could go for a store-within-a-store, capitalising on guaranteed footfall, or a pop-up event space set up specifically for ventures like yours. These are often blank canvases, allowing you to stamp your brand onto the space.

Alternatively, you could have a kiosk in a busy location, such as a train station or shopping centre, or even your own street-level pop-up retail space, especially useful if you're test-driving a permanent shop.

Where do I go for help setting up?

The UK is lucky in having organisations like Sook to provide valuable business advice and help small businesses navigate all the options.

You can also do your own research quite easily by taking a few days to scout out areas and talk to local shopkeepers, stallholders or, even better, people running their own pop-ups.

Finally, if you like the look of a space but aren't sure if it's available to rent, just ask. Remember, the owner of the space gets something out of your pop-up too, so be confident in your pitch and show them the mutual benefits.

How do I brand my pop-up space?

Pop-up shops work best as showcases. So it's worth investing some time and thought in your marketing strategy and the design of your space, rather than just filling it with loads of products and thinking 'sell, sell, sell'.

Consider people who are going to come in and look around, but buy online. Or, if your products are offering an independent, artisan point of difference to the chains nearby, show that off in how you've set up your space.

Make sure you have lots of fresh products in the window and offer samples on the street outside. Throw a launch party and invite the local press along, again with lots of freebies and giveaways. Get people excited about walking past your pop-up every morning.

By delivering great pop-up shopping experiences, you're creating something that people will miss once you're gone. So give them a reason to be loyal and find you online, or even make a pilgrimage to your next location.

More practically, the basics you'll want to think about are:

  • fixtures and fittings, including lighting

  • furniture

  • signage

  • marketing materials

  • display decorations

  • branded items, such as aprons, packaging and carrier bags

If you already have a defined brand for your products, this is the time to start extending it to cover your pop-up materials. If not, consider commissioning a local designer.

Branding is worth investing in, as it carries your pop-up far and wide, from the train station to the school gates.

What licences, insurance and technology do I need?

You must make sure you're legally allowed to run your pop-up. This is especially important if you're serving food or drink, with specific licences for alcohol and health and safety requirements to meet and maintain.

Planning to play music? You'll need a licence for that too, and hoping you won't get reported can lead to hefty fines, so don't chance it.

Next, are you insured? Your business online might be, but now you're expanding offline you'll need different types of cover. Public liability insurance will be key here, but check first to see if your location already covers it.

Remember, too: if you're employing people to help at your pop-up, you may need an employer's liability policy. Not having one can land you with a hefty fine, so do your research and understand your responsibilities around business insurance.

Finally, make sure you've ironed out the technology you need. Allowing customers to make card payments (including contactless) is essential for most businesses, as is a good Wi-Fi connection.

And on that note, if you're setting up a coffee shop, provide lots of power sockets. You'll attract remote workers and freelancers, and always be busy. Just make sure they're buying lots of coffee too!


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