Should You Open a Pop-Up Shop?

Are you looking for a way to spark excitement around your retail store, test a new product line or reach out to a new market without making a huge financial commitment? The answer just could be to open a pop-up shop.

Should I Open A Pop-Up Shop?

Pop-up shops have transitioned from being a recession-inspired solution to now a trend in the modern retail landscape. Born out of necessity during economic downturns, these short-term retail spaces were initially used to occupy vacant storefronts.

But their charm has only grown, and even top-tier retailers are jumping on the bandwagon, establishing their own pop-ups or even featuring them within existing stores.

What makes them so compelling? Their temporary nature. There’s an urgency that accompanies a pop-up shop, akin to a limited-time offer or a quick sale.

open a pop up shop

Customers are enticed with a sense of exclusivity and the thrill of “here today, gone tomorrow.” While the classic model is to set up shop in available retail spaces, the boundaries are being pushed.

According to Forbes, there’s been a notable emergence of pop-ups near gas stations, supermarkets, and home and garden centers in the U.K.

However, the possibilities don’t stop there. You can find pop-ups inside art galleries, office complexes, or even spacious lofts. Ultimately, it boils down to understanding where your audience is and what kind of environment would resonate with them.

As you consider diving into the pop-up world, reflect on your brand, your objectives, and the unique experiences you wish to offer. While pop-ups can be an excellent strategy for many, it’s essential to ensure it aligns with your brand’s ethos and goals.

open a pop up shop

A pop-up shop can be a great way to:

  • Test the waters in a new market before committing to a longer retail lease.
  • Sell excess inventory or past-season products.
  • Create an “experience” that you can’t replicate in your retail store, such as hosting musical events or putting on an art show. One big reason that customers visit pop-up shops is because they offer more than just products for sale.
  • Attract attention to a new product line or other change at your store. For example, a clothing retailer considering adding men’s fashions could use a pop-up shop to highlight men’s clothing and see how well the products sell.

How Can You Make Your Pop-up Shop a Success?

  • Choose your location carefully. Based on what you hope to achieve (see above), look for a location that attracts attention, gets a good amount of customer traffic and fits your needs. Of course, you also want the space to be near complementary businesses that will attract your target customer base.
  • Promote your pop up. Creating buzz is key to attracting people to your pop-up shop. In addition to spreading the news through all the usual avenues — email marketing, social media or even direct mail — be sure to do public relations to let the local media know about your shop.
  • Have fun with it. A pop-up shop is an event as much as it is a retail location. Create a sense of fun and excitement — this is no time to lie low. You want people passing by to be aware that something special is going on, so pull out all the stops to attract attention with music, decor and more.

open a pop up shop

Planning to Open a Pop-Up Shop

Before launching a pop-up shop, careful planning is crucial to ensure its success. Here are some foundational steps from setting objectives to financial preparation.

Identifying Your Goals

Before launching a pop-up shop, it’s essential to define what you hope to achieve. Objectives can range from increasing brand awareness, launching a new product line, engaging with customers face-to-face, to testing a new market.

Setting specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals will provide direction for your pop-up and a criterion by which to measure its success.

For instance, if your goal is to test market response to a new product, your success metrics could include sales numbers, customer feedback, and social media engagement during the pop-up period.

Budgeting and Financial Planning

Budgeting is a critical step in the planning process. Start by listing all potential expenses, including space rental, design and setup costs, staffing, inventory, marketing, and unforeseen costs. It’s also wise to plan for a contingency fund of about 10-20% of your total budget for unexpected expenses.

Financial planning involves ensuring your pop-up shop is a viable project with a clear path to profitability or other non-monetary benefits that justify the investment.

Consider the cost per acquisition, expected revenue, and the long-term value of enhanced brand recognition or market testing insights.

Choosing the Perfect Location to Open a Pop-up Shop

The right location can make or break your pop-up shop. Here’s how to select an ideal spot that aligns with your brand and attracts your target audience.

Researching Potential Venues

The location of your pop-up shop significantly impacts its success. High foot traffic areas, neighborhoods where your target audience resides or frequents, and locations near complementary businesses can increase visibility and customer visits.

Explore unconventional venues that may offer unique engagement opportunities, such as art galleries, community spaces, or even outdoor markets, depending on your brand and goals. Utilize local market research, demographic data, and even foot traffic analysis tools to make an informed decision.

Negotiating Terms with Landlords

When you’ve identified potential locations, negotiation begins. Understand the terms of the lease, including the duration, rent, utilities, and any restrictions on the use of the space. Be clear about your needs, such as the ability to customize the space or extend the lease if the pop-up is successful.

Landlords interested in filling vacant spaces, even temporarily, may be open to negotiations, so don’t hesitate to ask for better terms or additional perks like marketing support through their channels.

Marketing Your Pop-Up Shop

Marketing is key to attracting visitors to your pop-up shop. Here are some strategies for building anticipation and leveraging local media to maximize exposure.

Building Anticipation and Buzz

Effective marketing is key to ensuring your pop-up shop’s success. Start building anticipation early with teasers on social media, email announcements to your subscriber list, and engaging content that highlights what’s unique about your pop-up.

Consider creating an event on social media platforms and inviting your audience to share and invite others. Collaborating with local influencers, bloggers, or other businesses can expand your reach and build excitement.

Leveraging Local Media and PR

Reach out to local media outlets with a well-crafted press release that tells your pop-up shop’s unique story—why it’s newsworthy and what makes it a must-visit for their audience. Offer exclusive previews or interviews to pique interest and get coverage.

Hosting a media day or a special event for local influencers and journalists can provide valuable press coverage and word-of-mouth buzz.

Creating an Unforgettable Customer Experience

Your pop-up shop’s design should reflect your brand while creating an inviting and memorable experience for visitors. Use creative displays, interactive elements, and thematic decorations to make a strong visual impact.

Ensure the layout facilitates smooth flow and easy access to products. Incorporating technology, such as virtual reality or interactive screens, can add an element of surprise and engagement.

Hosting Events and Activities

Consider hosting events and activities that align with your brand and pop-up shop goals. Workshops, product demonstrations, and live performances can attract visitors and encourage them to spend more time in your pop-up.

Partnering with local artists, chefs, or personalities for special appearances can also draw crowds and generate media interest.

Measuring Success and Learning from the Experience

Set up mechanisms to collect customer feedback during the pop-up, such as short surveys, feedback forms, or an interactive digital kiosk.

Monitor sales data, social media engagement, and any press coverage to evaluate the pop-up’s performance against your initial goals. Post-event, analyze the data to understand what worked, what didn’t, and why.

Applying Lessons to Future Ventures

Every pop-up shop offers valuable lessons, whether it’s insights into customer preferences, operational challenges, or marketing effectiveness. Reflect on these learnings to improve future pop-ups or integrate successful elements into your permanent retail strategy.

Share your experiences and lessons learned with your team, and consider publishing a case study or blog post to share your journey with a wider audience.

By meticulously planning, creatively marketing, engagingly executing, and thoughtfully reflecting on your pop-up shop, you can achieve meaningful business objectives, from brand building and market testing to inventory clearance and customer engagement.

Open a Pop-Up Shop Vs. Traditional Retail

To further inform your decision on whether a pop-up shop is right for your business, let’s examine the key differences and benefits between a traditional retail store and a pop-up shop:

Feature/BenefitTraditional RetailPop-Up Shop
DurationLong-term lease (usually years)Temporary (days to months)
Financial CommitmentHigh (long-term lease, infrastructure, etc.)Relatively low
FlexibilityLimited flexibility in terms of location/designHigh flexibility in location, design, and setup
PurposeGeneral retail sales and servicesSpecial events, testing products, clearing inventory
Target AudienceEstablished clientele basePotential to reach new or niche markets
Location DiversityPredominantly fixed locationsVariety including near gas stations, art galleries, etc.
Marketing BuzzConsistent branding and messagingEvent-based promotions and limited-time offers
RiskHigher due to long-term commitmentsLower, due to temporary nature and smaller investment
Customer ExperienceTraditional shopping experienceUnique, event-like experiences
Success MetricsLong-term sales, customer loyaltyImmediate feedback, sales during event, brand exposure

This table highlights the distinct advantages and considerations of both retail formats. Using this information, you can weigh the pros and cons tailored to your business objectives and decide if a pop-up shop is a fitting strategy for you

While pop-up shops are often associated with fashion and youth, the concept can really work for any type of business. The key is to know what you want to get from your shop, define your target audience and figure out where to find them.


adidas Pop-Up Store Photo via Shutterstock

More in: 2 Comments ▼

Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.

2 Reactions
  1. I couldn’t agree more. Working for a shipping container pop-up shop company, i’d say that there is no limit to what you can do with a pop-up store. Great read, thanks!

  2. I think that it is great for introducing your brand or introducing your products. It always has a limited edition feel to it so I like it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *