10 Questions about pop-up retail
The high street is going through a restructure, as the previous model of long commercial contracts is no longer fit for purpose. An interesting proposition is to open a pop-up shop for a limited period of time in a popular location, to test the market and drive brand awareness. Charley Crocker, Founder and Lead Agent of The Pop Up Shop Agents answers the most common questions about pop-up retail.
1. When did pop-up shops start?
Pop Up Shops in concept form have been around for hundreds of years, if you consider Christmas Markets and other festival market days, when local businesses would gather to show their products. In the current form, pop up shops, or 'guerilla stores' became common in Los Angeles in the 1990's. By the early 2000's brands were using pop ups to create a memorable experience for their customers. A great example is Comme de Garcons, who opened a pop up in Berlin in 2004.
2. How do pop-up shops work?
And what do you need to consider before opening one? A pop up shop is a short term experience for the customer, and goal-setting is important. They can be great for launching new brands to market, revitalising older ones, showcasing not only products but also business to business, as we see a current top heavy demand for shared retails spaces on our high streets.
Before opening your own pop up shop, you need to study your market, your location, set your goals and be prepared for a lot of promotion. Are you getting attention, selling heavily at a discount, running a glitzy event, or dipping a toe in high street shopping? For instance, I also write books (as D. E. White), so a new book launch is a perfect starting point for a pop up. From your initial idea, you build upwards until you have created your perfect pop up scenario and also your worst.
3. What are pop-up shops used for?
Pop Up Shops are ideal for larger brands to create a buzz, and smaller ones to widen their customer base. In a world where we rely heavily on online sales, a place where customers can shop and touch, smell, or indeed taste products, is still a very satisfying experience, and potentially, one we as customers crave more post Covid.
4. Are pop-up shops successful?
Not every pop up will meet its intended financial goals. Larger brands will be able to shrug this off, smaller ones need to keep a close eye on the budget sheet. You can have the best, most expensive space in London, but if none of your customers know you are there, or indeed they are the wrong demographic, you may have wasted time and money. Other goals to consider should be customer interaction, building on social media and newsletters. Success is not purely defined by the financial gain, and a pop up shop can simply be a brand building exercise.
5. How long are pop-up shops open for?
Anything from a couple of hours, a day, to a few months. As customers we have a short attention span, and pop up is temporary retail/event experiences. Often, especially with shared pop ups on the high street, businesses gain the confidence and see a need for their own high street unit. This grows from the pop up, but is not classed as pop up.
6. Do pop-up shops make money or serve other purposes such as building brand awareness?
They can serve many purposes, and we are seeing in the last few years a big move to rejuvenate high streets or previously run down areas, using pop up shops. This has varied success. Pop up can drive customers and become a destination, but due to the nature of the business, a plan has to be made to continue in the same demographic after the pop up has finished.
7. What are the different types of pop-up shops?
Some of the most popular, and successful are those selling local products/artisan produce. Seasonal shops are great, and Christmas can be a good time to book a pop up space. Holiday or themed shops/celebrity book signings/branded and customised merchandise are all at the top of the list. Pop up vending machines erving anything from fresh eggs, to candy, to necklaces are also popular.
8. What are the most popular pop-up shops?
9. Who designs pop-up shops? And how to find a pop-up space?
There are many event companies and store designers who can help design your perfect shop, but equally there is plenty of help online. To find space you can check out a large provider like Appear Here, but equally, smaller local businesses like The Pop Up Shop Agents, who work with local authorities, may be helpful in getting your brand seen on the high street. You can approach land agents directly, but short term leases on vacant units are hard to come by.
10. What’s the most innovative pop-up you have ever seen in terms of technology use to enhance customer experience and drive profitability?
At some of our pop up shops, we have used QR codes and VR to enhance customer experience. An artist and a furniture designer we worked with used this technique: QR codes leading directly to the brand's website, the product is ordered online and delivered to the customer's home. With VR the customer could view the product in different places in their room, before they have even bought it!
We have screens displayed in our pop ups showing snapshots of our sellers, which is very successful. Another brand we worked with (Zuma the Dog), sells a range of clothing for children, and they showcased their latest product, a T-shirt combining AR gaming with a quality wearable garment. Obviously this was a perfect example of a product to showcase via pop up!
This was similar to the much larger Lego x Snapchat pop up back in 2019. Nike are another innovation and pop up experience favourite, with their Sneakeasy stores, customers had to log into a microsite and follow the brand on Twitter for clues to find when their local store would be open. And of course, it was open for a very short period, creating that want and need marketing we all aspire to in the world of pop up.
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