Clothing boutiques, jewelry shops, shoe stores, artisanal cheeses…the list could go on and on as to the small business owners who surprise their communities and prospective buyers with pop-up shops. And, they are running the gamut from well-established businesses and brands like Kate Spade, Tiffany’s, even Yves Saint Laurent, to the small business entrepreneur, and everyone in between are getting in on the action. In major cities like New York and San Francisco with their high rent prices, pop-up shops can be a great way to benefit from all the foot traffic and gain more attention for your business, without committing to a costly, multi-year lease.
In smaller communities, pop-up shops can be a strategic way (especially if not the town in which your small business is based) to expand awareness of and interest in, your business to then generate more online purchases or customers taking trips to wherever your business is based. And, regardless of where your business may be based, pop-up shops can prove to be an affordable alternative to a brick-and-mortar store, while getting yourself established. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves…
First Things First…
You may be asking yourself, “what on earth is a pop-up shop?” Simply put, a pop-up store is a short-term retail store, with something of a, “here today, gone tomorrow” mentality. Pop-up retail is the temporary use of physical space to create a long term, lasting impression with potential customers. A pop-up shop allows you to communicate your brand’s promise to your customers through the use of a unique and engaging physical environment while creating an immersive shopping experience.
A pop-up shop can be an otherwise empty storefront in which businesses enter into short-term lease agreements with landlords, or they can small structures that are erected or, “pop-up” temporarily in open spaces such as parks or plazas. Depending upon the budget of your small business, you may even want to explore the idea (if going the route of a structure that you will temporarily erect) of using this as an opportunity to build upon your brand. For example, if you saw a pop-up store that appeared to be gift box in the shade of robin’s egg blue with a white ribbon, you would most likely recognize it as being a Tiffany’s store. If on a tighter budget, your pop-up shop could be something as simple as a “walk-in closet” being assembled, if you are a clothing designer, or a food cart if you are starting a catering company.
If your pop-up shop is not in already established structure like a vacant store front, this can be an exciting opportunity to flex those creative muscles! This can also be a good opportunity to look into your area farmer’s markets and fairs, insofar as places in which you can erect your pop-up shop. Depending upon where you live, how much space you have and overall capacity, you could keep costs even lower by hosting a pop-up store in your home.
Remember: whatever approach you take, it should always still be professional and the best representation of your brand.
Show Me the Money
The next question you may have is, “will it actually make any money?” Well, as Mark Twain said, the only two certainties in life are death and taxes. However, if you follow these suggestions:
- Create cash flow: make sure all of your neighbors, friends and family know of the event and location, and make sure they are spreading the word to all of their friends and family. Utilize social media and your other marketing tools to get the word out. If part of a fair or farmer’s market, leverage whatever marketing they have in place.
- Value the customer experience: the merchandise that you are selling is not the only thing that defines your brand; your customer service does, as well. As a small business owner, chances are, you cannot afford a lot of negative publicity at this stage of the game, so remember that venturing into a pop-up shop is just as much of an immersive experience for the patron as it is for you, as the entrepreneur.
- Be in the right market at the right time: If you make artisanal mayonnaise, but live in a town in which no one wants to spend money on anything but Hellman’s, then perhaps you want to explore taking your pop-up to another locale, at least until the trend hits your hometown. Meanwhile, if you make jewelry out of bottle caps and other items you found in your neighbors recycling while living in a loft in Tribeca, you may be better off taking you wares to another part of New York City. The key to any successful small business is knowing who your target audience is and knowing how to best reach them.
- Assemble an amazing team: from actors to research scientists, most people will tell you that you are only as good as the people with whom you surround yourself. Ensure that your sales associates are friendly, well-informed and upbeat. Make sure that anyone who is going to assembling a free-standing pop-up shop is handy with power tools. Trust your marketing team to spread the word in a positive, effective manner.
You may also be thinking, “well, I have an ecommerce business. All of my customers are online; I am not interest in having a brick-and-mortar store. So, why would I need to have a pop-up shop, however temporary?” Because it can be a valuable tool for engaging customers offline. It can not only give you a better sense of who your customers are, but can also allow them to get to know you.
Additionally, a recent study has shown that more and more people are doing what has been coined, “webrooming” wherein the browse online and then buy in a store. This could be the result of being tired of having to ship items back, when they don’t fit or do not look exactly like the photo on the website. Whatever the reason, even if yours is an ecommerce business, there is great benefit to having those opportunities to meet your customers face to face and allowing them to see your merchandise in person, before purchasing.
If you are able to keep these suggestions in mind, and if you have estimated your expenditures properly, you should have no problem generating a pretty tidy sum in your exploration of pop-up shops. (If possible, try to find a location that has already become known as a “go-to” place for pop-up shops, as that can help ensure something of a built-in customer base.)
‘Tis the Season
Is there a holiday coming up? People love being able to buy their loved ones gifts that are new and unique; perhaps handmade or a new brand that isn’t already being donned by everyone. Leveraging the holiday spirit can be a great way to begin your adventures in pop-up shops. As there are generally numerous craft fairs and festivals around the holidays, it should also make finding a time and place and bit easier for you, as well.
Are you in a position to pitch your pop-up shop as being a sale event? Can you offer special deals or discounts to new customers? Two for one deals? Special offers can a good way to generate interest in your small business, while attracting those customers who are not already familiar with your brand.
Whether as a means of saving money while you are starting out or to better know your online customers, there are many benefits to jumping on the bandwagon of the pop-up shop. Use this as an opportunity to expand both physically and creatively!