Could a ‘pop-up’ shop benefit your startup business?

You’ll struggle to find a retail trend more current than that of the ‘pop-up’ shop. The phenomenon goes under different names – flash sales, pop-up stores, temporary retail – but they’re all essentially the same thing, a temporary retail space that sells or promotes something.

For new businesses and businesses that trade exclusively online – they can have some significant benefits, but what’s involved? What are those benefits? And would it be right for your business?

What’s pop-up all about?

The idea of having a pop-up store started in Los Angeles in the 90s – and was quickly capitalised upon by large retails. A business finds a vacant retail space, generally in an area of high footfall, and sets up their experience quickly – hence, ‘pop-up’.

The outlet might stay open for a day, a week, a month or even a year – but the temporary vibe generally means the walls go undecorated and no permanent fixtures are put into place.

It’s not just about retail

While the term ‘pop-up shop’ lends itself to images of retailers making clearances or launching new products, the scope for the pop-up is actually a lot broader. Samsung have pioneered the pop-up ‘brand experience’ where consumers can use their range of electronics – and pop-up restaurants are sweeping big UK cities as the ultimate in exclusive temporary dining.

You might be thinking your business has no place in this pop-up marketplace – but you’d be amazed at how diverse the applications can be:

  • Mobile food trucks: Want to showcase your restaurant, fast-food or coffee shop to an audience in a slightly different location? Operate from the back of a truck or van while handing out loyalty cards and discount fliers that’ll bring people to your permanent location.
  • Showcase your service: Here’s some news for owners of business to business services – other business owners shop! You might think that high street shoppers aren’t your target audience – but think about who these people are – self-employed, business owners, procurement professionals – they’ll stop and look if you’re there.
  • Artists: Space in a gallery hard to find? Struggling to make a mark online? Setting up a temporary pop-up gallery can put your work in front of a huge audience. Perhaps you’ll choose to sell, perhaps you’ll just build awareness – but if it’s good enough for Banksy, it’s probably going to be good enough for you!

What’s in it for your business?

There’s an impression that the pop-up is exclusively for the ‘hipster’ generation – the super cool who shun the ordinary in favour of the unknown – but actually, from virtually day 1, pop-ups have been used for everything from sole-traders looking to break into the market – to big worldwide brands who are levering the benefits of going off the beaten path.

Think about some of these benefits:

  • Build and enhance awareness

Consider “Do you want to look at a shop?” versus “Do you want to look at a new pop-up shop?” – immediately you’ve got excitement on your side. Pop-up says ‘exciting’ and ‘exclusive’ – without actually saying it.

They’re pretty good words to have associated with your brand – and not only that, by ‘popping-up’ you’re going to make connections with customers, old and new. This is especially true for online retailers and services who generally operate without a ‘face’ – a pop up build familiarity and can enhance your relationships.

  • It’s cheap

A month of pop-up presence is a lot cheaper and easier to arrange than a month of permanent premises occupation. In fact, it’s around 75% cheaper – meaning you can bag yourself a hot location for a fraction of the normal price.

Perhaps you want to use this for good? Put yourself in a position where new customers get to see you regardless of your business location – or maybe you want to harness the dark side and put yourself in a competitor’s location and steal some business. All’s fair in love, war and pop-ups…

  • Test the market

At many expo events companies launch concept products. Some might see the light of day – others might be condemned the big product bin in the sky – but either way, you need some opinion to help you decide.

Pop-ups give you the chance to put a new or concept product in front of people – where expos and market research campaigns might be cost-prohibitive. Combined with the excitement a pop-up can create, you might find you generate the buzz needed to make the launch successful in just the short time spent interacting with a potential customer base.

  • Sell!

The excitement and image of pop-up businesses is at the highest it’s ever been – which is impressive when you consider how widely the phenomenon now spreads. While online retail is massive – it’s a mere speck compared to the money that’s still spent in the high street.

More than 90% of the UK’s retail spend is done in shops – meaning that if you’re exclusively online, you’re missing out on a huge pile of cash. Perhaps the occasional pop-up would bolster your profits? Perhaps it would help you clear old stock? Or perhaps it’s the test you need before you move into more traditional retail premises?

Where to begin?

If the idea of a pop-up sounds like it could benefit your business – there first thing to think about is what you’d like to get out of the experience. When you have an idea of the goal, you’ll want to think about a location that’s going to suit you.

Pop-ups don’t have to be constrained to empty business locations – there are markets, events and expos happening all the time that could offer space for your business. Who do you want to appeal to? Where will you find those people?

When you’ve got an idea of what you’d like to do and where you’d like to do it, you’ll want to start looking at some spaces. There’s an increasing number of landlords who are more than willing to let their property for short periods of time – even just days, so talking to some retail estate agents will take you in the right direction.

Above all – do some pop-up shopping and see what you like. There are some super creative ideas out there – and there’s something that’ll be perfect for the goal you’re hoping for and the kind of person you’re hoping to attract.

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