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How To Open A Successful Pop Up Shop in 6 easy steps

Since our year-long time-out on any kind of outdoor entertainment, many of us have all indulged in some ill-advised obsessive online shopping for some sheer entertainment. On the plus side, and there is a plus side – that’s led to an appetite for the real, offline shopping experience only pop up retail stores can provide! If you’re considering launching your very own venture, opening a pop up shop may be the perfect precursor to get you started off on the right foot! You’d join a community of quirky, unique, innovative and like-minded entrepreneurs like yourself with the goal of hands-on, real-life market research as you make moves to get your long-term business off the ground – both at minimal costs and with minimal commitment.


Couple shopping in pop up store


What are pop up shops?

Pop up retail stores are temporary outlets that capitalise on empty storefronts, giving you a platform to show off your products and services as well as strengthen your brand. It’s often used to test the market for your product, gauge interest and get some real, authentic and invaluable feedback while incentivising customers to pop down as a time-exclusive product – if FOMO is still a thing – then yes, the FOMO factor.


1. Set your goal

As mentioned above, there are plenty of reasons behind opening a pop up shop. From getting direct customer feedback, seeing how much interest your product is getting, raising brand awareness and simply testing the location for future reference. Add-ons like the low fee is a plus, but not a goal.

Once you’ve established a goal, find out how you can measure your results. Set benchmarks and have a number of questions you want to be answered. How will you encourage qualitative feedback? Are you relying on 1:1 conversations, how will you record them? Are you offering a small incentive for customers to fill in a survey? There’s a lot to consider. It’s a good idea to plan out every step of the way to help you identify any obstacles you may face long before you set up shop.

All feedback will feed into the very makings of your product and brand concept, enabling you to continuously tweak your operation as per public opinion and inch closer to the final product.


2. Consider a POS

With a pop up retail store being the pathway to actionable insight, a dedicated iPad ePOS system will go a long way to provide consolidated reports across sales, bestsellers, stocks and customers. Not only will this give you a great way to forecast interest and performance, but it’ll play a huge role when you’re drawing up your business plan while trying to pull investors on board. If your numbers look promising, you’ll have strong, hard data to back up your product.


3. Location

Pop up stores are usually the prerequisite to opening a fully-fledged store further down the line and if you have your eye on a specific location, it’s a great idea to test the waters by opening your pop up shop in the very same area. Your service/product should also influence where you set up shop, be it an unused retail space, your local shopping centre or your local high street. If it fits your offering, why not get quirky with it and consider a converted bus or mobile home?

You’ll also want to ensure that your spot has visibility and if you’ve been able to identify the segment of the population your product is targeting, it’s a good idea to find spots your target demographic frequents.


4. Get your lease

Setting up your lease for a retail pop up store is far less complicated and far more affordable than the long-term alternative that comes with a fully-fledged business venture – but you’ll still have to go through the dreaded paperwork. Make sure that the lease reflects your needs. In step one, you’ll have identified your main goal in opening a pop up shop and if your plan and budget allow you to only stick around for a week – make sure you push for just that and aren’t talked into a lengthier contract. If you’re flexible or need to be, see if there’s wriggle room and minimal penalty when cutting the contract short.

There’ll be restrictions in place when you’re leasing a spot and you must abide by the health and safety guidelines. You may be tempted to scoot over the fine print when it comes to such a short-term commitment but it can easily pull you into unnecessary litigation – better safe than sorry!


5. Get creative

Standing out is key, and the way you do that should align with your brand and product. The rules are – there are no rules! If ever there was a time to get your creative juices flowing, it’s now. It’s after all the unique flexibility a pop up retail store provides that holds so much value as a concept – you can be the store that puts an end to shoppers fatigue altogether!

You’ll want to approach this less as a budget-driven endeavour and more of an experience. Brainstorm, throw out the craziest and most ambitious of ideas and ignore the logistics for now. You’ll be able to fine-tune it into something manageable over time but the idea should start big. Did you know there are shipping containers used as pop up stores, an idea that has driven plenty of traffic out of sheer curiosity?


6. Market for momentum

It’s all good and well to broach the untapped waters of physical stores, and while your location will have ensured that the street is filled with your target population and your pop up aesthetics make for an effective lure – take it up a notch by plugging the hell out of it!

It’s worth taking the time to build up dedicated social media to market your store – a physical store has a tonne of marketability! You can now also jump on the TikTok train, as well as legacy social media, from Instagram to Twitter and post a countdown as well as push rewards and exclusives to entice the masses. The good old tactics still work:

  • Get friends and family to like and share your posts/website
    Use appropriate hashtags
    Reach out to accessible influencers
    Share video teasers and regular updates

And once you’ve set up shop, you can sign customers up to your very own crafted marketing messages – anything from a newsletter to communicating promotions! Take lots of pictures, videos and content to share after the fact and create a buzz around your venture!


Get popping!

While pop up retail stores are generally meant to be for the short-term as a way to take your product out to the public while minimising costs, a real-life physical store is second to none in marketability and obtaining data. So if you’re looking to take your first entrepreneurial venture into the real world, follow our steps and do so with minimal risk and a whole lot to gain!