Joanna Cunningham lets you in on the secrets to pop-up store success.

Pop-up retail is the act of setting up a temporary shop or stall to sell goods and wears. Take Christmas markets, for example – these are a really useful and resourceful way to not only sell off your stock, but to get your name out there, especially if you’re a small business. This can make a great alternative to purchasing an actual store, and can benefit a business in many ways. That being said, for someone who might be thinking of getting themselves into a pop-up, here are some tips and tricks that will help you to reach your goal….

  1. Firstly, figure out if your next step should be a pop-up

This is a great place to start, as you need to work out whether your business will benefit from a pop-up before deciding anything else. Julie Nicaisse, who owns a bespoke jewellery business and is very familiar with setting up pop-ups herself, thinks that they are are a great way of doing market research to see what people think of your new products. Lalla Bronshtein, who worked with the London Organic pop-up team to house her clothing brand, LALLAXRR, agrees with this. She feels that a pop-up helps you to get to know your customers more, allowing you to showcase your products in a more personal outlet.

Of course, starting up a business is incredibly difficult, and sometimes what you might think would be a useful product or service might not be what the majority of people are looking to buy! There’s no point in putting yourself out there to receive inevitable failure. Therefore, this type of market research will allow you to scout out your potential buyers, a little bit like Dragon’s Den, but from the masses. Ultimately, if you produce products that people want, then you will be successful!

Julie also thinks that pop-up stores are “a great way to connect with new customers and introduce your brand”. Stephanie Fleming from Lone Design Club, a pop-up store hosting fashion and lifestyle brands, rightly notes that nowadays everything is online, so it is important to retain an offline element, especially for smaller businesses. Getting yourself noticed in a world of such business saturation and competitiveness is a marathon. Therefore, by putting your business out there in a tangible medium, rather than just online, people can see and touch your product for themselves. Indeed, according to science (bear with me on this one), you’re more likely to purchase a product if you’ve physically touched it. It’s science, guys, so it must be true… Nevertheless, even if a customer does not purchase anything from the pop-up there and then, having seen the product in reality, they are more likely to shop online for it later, or recommend it to a friend.

By putting your product out there, Stephanie believes that it gives the business owner “the opportunity to interact with their customers, build relationships and gain valuable feedback which may not be possible online or through a traditional retailer”. By increasing awareness for your brand, and creating meaningful relationships with customers, you’ll gain customer loyalty, potentially leading to repeat sales. Overall, a pop-up is a fantastic outlet for any sort of business as long as you recognise your end goal, Stephanie remarks.

2. Next step, do your research

It certainly wouldn’t be worth setting up a pop-up in the wrong place, at the wrong time. You need to really suss out the ropes and decide a location and a great building or temporary fixture to use. The design of your pop-up is a key aspect of making this decision. Lalla advises you to “make sure it’s spacious and bright” to compliment the products you’re selling, as you want to show them off in their best light!

It’s also really important to make sure you find a great area to host your pop-up to raise the maximum interest, remaining within your price-point. Julie says she has only done pop-ups in London, which is ultimately the most expensive area to set yourself up. Therefore, if money is a major factor in deciding your location, think about going further out of London, or maybe to another city, such as Cardiff or Edinburgh. This will purely depend on your products themselves, so if you sell highend products, you need to sell in an area where people can actually afford your products – know your audience.

In order to gauge all of this, Stephanie visits the potential location multiple times, identifying key markers which may reveal more about the particular audience in that area, such as the clothes they wear or the shops they enter. Perhaps just pop into a nearby coffee store and people watch for a while to get to grips with the local audience. This will help to understand the customers available in that area, and whether they will suit your brand. Julie also states that she makes sure to visit the pop-up location before agreeing a deal to make sure it would make a suitable venue. However, she notes that, most of the time, that’s not the case. Therefore, this is a major step to ensuring you get the maximum benefits from your pop-up experience. In general, a great place to start is to select busy high streets, as you’ll always have curious passers-by.

3. Utilise the people you already know

As you’re aware, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know! Therefore, it’s so handy to use your current personal connections to gain potential business exposure – be savvy! Julie does this herself, as she is a member of several jewellers’ and designer-makers’ associations, who sometimes organise their own pop-up events. Due to her connections, she will usually get an invitation to participate via email, and then she will fill out an application form to see if she is a good fit to participate. Therefore, if you are part of any groups, Julie and Lalla both urge you to “make sure you check if they run their own pop-up shops”, as this is usually the best and the cheapest option!

Jaron, who works for Artisan & Fox, an ethical jewellery, home, and lifestyle business, also advocates the “spirit of collaboration”. For their company, “opening a pop-up store in London is all about collaboration and learning from one another”, as retail is so competitive these days, and rents are really high. By collaborating with other brands, you can get the best of both worlds, by using less money, and getting your brand out there with other, perhaps more well-known brands.

4. Persuade the pop-up that they want YOU

Once you think you’ve found a pop-up shop you think could represent your brand, you can’t simply rest on your laurels; you have to prove to them why they should represent you. Julie says that a good way to do this is by visiting the shop and bringing a few samples with you to show the person in charge. If the person you need is not available, make sure you get their email address. Otherwise, just introduce yourself to those who look after the popup, and ask if they are looking for new designers to showcase their work. After visiting, wait a few days and then drop them an email, containing a business portfolio with photos and visual aids for added flair. By doing this, you will remain on their radar, so they may call on you later.

5. Organise the when, what, and who

Once you’ve organised where to showcase your business, you must decide all the details. This includes when you’ll have your event, which should be on a day when you know the pop-up area will be busy, for example, on a weekend. Then, decide exactly how to design your pop-up store. Julie advises on a fabulous design, which will draw people’s eyes, and which will really showcase your products to their optimum potential.

Lalla also advises you to work out how much to sell your items for in the pop-up, as if they’re too overpriced, you won’t be able to sell off your stock, but if they’re underpriced, you may not make a profit, and you’ll underrepresent yourself. Again, it all depends on the area of the popup. Lalla also says to think about what would make your pop-up different to any other shops around, to stand out from the crowd. Stephanie agrees, noting that “the space should be clean”, with a less-is-more vibe. She goes on to say that “people are seeking an experience more and more, so adding that experiential element can enhance the popup”. Ultimately, it is just best to be “extremely welcoming” to everyone who walks in the door, giving them a warm greeting; anything to draw in your target market.

6. Advertise, advertise, advertise

Don’t forget, you need to tell people about your pop-up store! The great thing about social media these days is you can get the word out a lot easier. Just plaster the event all over your social media pages and website, tell all your friends, and encourage people to share. If you have the means, you could even give a little bonus to the first couple of people who turn up – perhaps a free gift or a deal? Something to treat your first customers and entice people.

7. Do it all over again…

Finally, once you’ve done all this and it’s been a successful event, you may have hopefully made some valuable networking connections, and you can do it all again! By opening up pop-ups in different locations, you can spread the word about your business, and get yourself more and more connections along the way.

Overall, it is clear how important pop-ups are for businesses, particularly smaller ones; they allow them to expand and reach a wider audience for a minimal cost. Hopefully this has been a helpful insight into how to get your business into a pop-up store, from people who have done it all themselves. Good luck!

You can keep up to date with Joanna’s work by reading about it on her blog, itstartedwithrebecca.wordpress.com, or follow @itstartedwithrebecca on Instagram, and @iswrebecca on Twitter.

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