Advice on how to set up a business

Pop-up shops: how they can help your business

27 April 2015

There's a buzz around pop-up businesses right now. So what are they and why could they be a great option for your business?

Pop-up businesses are simply temporary shops, in place for a limited time only. They may be in traditional retail venues or tied to specific events or locations. They may appear for only a day or two, or be around to make the most of seasonal trends.

For example, Argos set up pop-up shops in London railway stations in the run up to Christmas, so that customers could order and collect items on their daily commute.

Who should set up a pop-up shop?

  • Pop-up shops are a great way to test your business idea. For example, smoothie maker Innocent originally started as a pop-up shop. They took a stall at a music festival and asked people if they thought they should give up their jobs to make smoothies, by dropping their empties into two bins marked 'yes' and 'no'. As the 'yes' bin filled up, they knew they had a market for their drinks.
  • Pop-up shops can also be a great way of generating interest in your new business and getting you noticed. Setting up in a quirky location, or doing something new can be a good way to generate public relations interest. And of course they're a good way to sell stuff and make money.
  • One of the biggest advantages to pop-up shops is that they're low cost - typically, 80% less than you pay to buy or lease traditional retail space long term. So a pop-up business gives you a way of trying something new, without tying up your cash flow.

Five top tips for setting up a pop-up business

1Choose your location carefully

Ideally it will be somewhere with a high footfall, so you can make the most of passing trade. Events can be good for crowds, but consider the theme and audience - is it a natural fit for your business? Will it attract your target market?

Is there another relevant business nearby or is there a natural link up? For example, a jewellery business might set up a pop-up shop in a hairdresser's salon; or cheese makers could offer tastings at a local deli.

But be creative; pop-up shops don't have to be in traditional retail spaces. Is there a hall, community, or other space that you could use? Remember, you're looking for low or no-cost premises, so be inventive.

2Use marketing to create a buzz

How will people find out about your pop-up business? Make the most of social media, and free marketing, but also think about flyers or advertising in the local area in advance.

Pop-up shops are only around for a short time, so how can you make the most of this? Do you want to offer a special price, or a limited edition product?

Think about how you can encourage customers to spread the word too. Can you offer a discount to your twitter followers? Or give out a special code or password that lets them get something more. And don't forget business cards and other items that people can take away to keep you in mind for the future.

3Do your research

A pop-up shop is a great way to give your customers chance to touch, feel or taste your products. How can you make the most of that experience and build your brand? Even if your focus is selling online, a pop-up shop can be a valuable opportunity to introduce new products and test them out.

Make sure you get customer feedback. What do they like? What do they not like? What do they think of your prices? Ask questions and give them the opportunity to add their feedback.

And remember; if it's your business, your customers are buying into you too, so tell your story. Interesting and attractive materials explaining more about your business are a great way to start a conversation.

4Test the market

If you know your target market, can you take your business to them? For example, if you have a range of clothing that would appeal to the young and trendy, can you get a pitch on a university or college campus?

Once you've set up your pop-up business, use it to test your skills. How do you display and market your products? How do you sell them? How do you take payments? Think about what works well and what you could do better.

5Don't forget the details!

Just because you're setting up a pop-up shop doesn't mean you should neglect the details. Goods are still covered under the sale of goods act. So consider what you'll do if there's a problem or someone wants to return an item they've bought. You'll also need to think about health and safety implications.

If you're thinking of employing staff, what will they need to know? What kind of standards of dress and behaviour do you expect? Do you always have to be there, or can you trust them to look after your business as well as you do?


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