Small Business

How To Organize A Pop Up Shop

By David Krug David Krug is the CEO & President of Bankovia. He's a lifelong expat who has lived in the Philippines, Mexico, Thailand, and Colombia. When he's not reading about cryptocurrencies, he's researching the latest personal finance software. 8 minute read

Think of a shopping center near you that has several abandoned storefronts. No doubt you can think of at least one: According to research published in 2014 by the National Association of Counties (NACo), local economies are still struggling to recover from the Great Recession, despite the fact that it has been six years since the recession officially ended. Even while communities are beginning to show signs of life again, many Main Streets in America still have many vacant businesses.

Now picture this: all of a sudden, new stores begin opening up along that street. There are at least six new stores, offering anything from secondhand books to handcrafted jewelry, that have opened in the past few weeks. Suddenly, the area is alive and well with economic activity again.

This isn’t some far-fetched make-believe; cities from Oakland to Detroit are experiencing this same thing right now. Pop-up stores, a new form of business that takes use of vacant retail spaces, make this feasible. Some of these pop-up shops become permanent fixtures in their communities, while others disappear after a few short months. Even if they are merely passing through, these fresh additions to a community may spark new ideas and activity.

What Do Pop-Up Shops Do?

A pop-up shop’s duration might range from one day to six months. Given the short-term nature of these shops, they can get by without the usual company expenses like a lease, insurance, or even workers. With merely a product to offer and a location, they are good to go in the business world.

Anything from apparel to books to preserves may be sold at a pop-up shop. There are a lot of them that sell jewelry, paintings, and other things that the proprietors made by hand. Some sell holiday decorations and costumes that are only in demand for a few weeks each year.

Most pop-up shops aren’t permanent establishments since leasing a storefront is costly and usually requires a commitment to a lengthy period of time. Instead, they choose low-cost, readily available, and easily accessible locations.

The Advantages of Pop-Up Stores

Pop-up shops are beneficial for consumers, company owners, and the communities in which they are located. This is what they can provide you:

  • Enterprises with a Minimal Potential for Loss. Business owners sometimes struggle with hefty launch fees. Pop-up shops, on the other hand, may be opened for only 20% of the cost of opening a traditional store, according to Storefront, a website that rents out space for temporary usage. This offers potential company owners the opportunity to test their concept without risking all they own. Pop-up shops are useful for both new online businesses and existing ones looking to test the waters in a physical storefront in a new area.
  • Filling Vacant Spaces with Tenants. Building owners face financial hardship when a tenant leaves a vacant storefront. Landlords may not always be prepared to reduce the rent in order to attract tenants, especially if doing so would lock them into a long-term lease at a significantly reduced rate. Pop-up shops provide a way to generate income quickly without sacrificing the possibility of securing a long-term, higher-paying tenant.
  • The emotion of excitement. The appearance of a community might deteriorate when many businesses are closed for an extended period of time. However, when businesses open and close or undergo other types of change on a monthly basis, the local commercial area gains a sense of vitality and newness. When people hear that there is always something exciting happening there, they begin to flock there. The area’s established companies benefit from the influx of visitors attracted by the area’s lively atmosphere, as do it’s more temporary neighbors.
  • An improvement in the state of the local economy. Although most pop-up shops only stay up for a few months, some eventually become long-term fixtures in their communities. As the number of companies in an area grows, so too does the number of people drawn to those establishments. All locals benefit from this development: shoppers have more retail options, employees have more employment opportunities, homeowners have higher property prices, and the community as a whole enjoys the added benefits of being more environmentally friendly, healthier, and more vibrant.

Helping Pop-Up Shops

Stopping by and making a purchase when you come across a pop-up shop is a great way to show your support for these businesses. However, this is helpful only if there are existing pop-up shops operating in your area.

If it doesn’t but you think it should, you can spark one with a pop-up campaign. A local effort to encourage pop-up shops, backed by shopkeepers, homeowners, or the government.

Pop-Up Initiatives That Worked

Promoting local companies is part of the Center for a New American Dream’s objective to create a more sustainable society. Guide to Localization provides several instances of effective pop-up movements in the US and Canada.

They are all in different places and encourage various types of pop-up shops, but they all have a common goal of bolstering local economies and communities via the usage of these temporary establishments.

  • PopUpHood. Located in the heart of Oakland, California, PopUpHood is a small business incubator that partners with local entrepreneurs, property owners, and the municipal government to revitalize blighted areas. Landlords of empty establishments in the area have made themselves accessible to new businesses for free for a period of six months. The temporary store has the option of negotiating a long-term lease with the owner and becoming a permanent business after six months of operation. Businesses such as a bike shop, a beauty salon, an avant-garde furniture store, and a coworking space have all gotten their starts with the help of PopUpHood.
  • SoCal Mobile Retailers’ Association (WCMRA). If you are interested in starting a mobile retail business, the WCMRA can help you get started (stores that operate out of a truck). Instruction on how to launch and manage a successful e-commerce mobile app is provided through a combination of free resources, paid webinars, and personalized coaching. The WCMRA expanded from its original three Los Angeles-based members to include those from the San Francisco Bay Area and Seattle. To name just a few examples of the many businesses that make up the WCMRA: a flower truck, a dry-goods store, and a mobile gift shop called The Library Store on Wheels, whose proceeds benefit the Los Angeles Public Library.
  • Conveniently Occurring Out of Nowhere. Alberta, Canada is home to On the Spot Pop Ups, a charitable organization that hosts art exhibitions and handmade goods sales. The group collaborates with local businesses to provide inexpensive exhibit space for artists and craftspeople. Ten dollars can get artisans a table at one of their exhibits, while $85 will provide them “premium space” measuring 40 square feet. More than four hundred local Edmonton artists and artisans have participated in On the Spot Pop Ups’ 50+ exhibits held across 10 venues. It’s currently making plans to open a branch in Calgary.
  • There will be a PopUp! in the city of Pittsburgh. PopUp! Pittsburgh’s efforts to revitalize deteriorating areas often take the form of single-day, inexpensive events. Its website states that rather than encouraging new companies to open, its purpose is to “create magical moments that catch people’s attention” and “push the public to perceive the area in new ways.” They collaborate with locals in a new area every year to plan and execute a successful event. Festivals, a movie screening, a 5K race, a laser light display, and a mass renewal of wedding vows are just a few examples of past activities that drew big audiences from inside and outside the community.

Organizing a Pop-Up Event

PopUpHood is an ambitious attempt to create a company to support temporary retailers. One-time pop-up events are easier to organize, and they may pave the way for permanent pop-up shops in your community.

For those interested in learning more about how to put on a pop-up event, The Guide to Going Local is a great resource. To recap, the steps are as follows:

  1. Identify a Potential Site. If you don’t have a temporary location, your pop-up shop won’t last long. Look around your community for underutilized or unused buildings, parking lots, or public areas (like parks) that might host temporary shops. The ideal location would be a high-traffic area with adequate room for numerous temporary stores.
  2. Attempt to Get Help From the Neighborhood. Find some sponsors that will help you spread the word about your pop-up event. The local government, companies, homeowners, artists, and nonprofits in your area are all possible candidates. Go to town hall meetings and other public gatherings to pitch your pop-up event concept and get feedback from locals on what kind of activities they would like. If you get your neighbors involved in the preparations, they’ll be more inclined to come out and show their support for the pop-up when it opens.
  3. Have a chat with the Site Admins. Your pop-up shop cannot legally operate without the approval of the property owner. Find the owner of the building and explain that you’re interested in their vacant storefront. Instead of letting their storefront lie empty for weeks or months, some landlords are ready to let pop-up shops utilize the space at a very discounted rent (or even for free). Find out if you need a permit before utilizing a park or other public area.
  4. Get some business owners together. The next step is to initiate contact with potential local pop-up shop owners. Advertise in newspapers, neighborhood message boards, and online discussion groups to discover business owners interested in setting up shop for a day or two or a few months. You might also try approaching local artist and craftsman collectives. Multiple pop-up shops can share the same location if there is adequate room, but if not, you can schedule their openings at intervals.
  5. Pick a Time that works for you. You may determine how long you need the space in total and when to begin and conclude your pop-up event based on the number of vendors you have and how long they want to run a storefront for. If you’re renting out a private location, make sure the suppliers have access to it on a short-term basis. If a business’s temporary storefront is profitable, the landlord should consider extending the lease.
  6. Advertise the Function. Having stores and a location for them isn’t enough to be successful; you also need consumers. Make use of all available avenues to spread the word about your event. Put up posters and flyers around town, send out a news release to the local paper, and use social media to get the word out. Make sure to detail the establishments that will be participating and the products they offer, as well as the goals of the initiative and the advantages they aim to provide to the local community. Get the word out by telling your friends and neighbors about the event and having them invite their friends and neighbors.

Bottom Line

Temporary shops, or “pop-ups,” that line a street give the area a sense of motion and transformation as they open and close. People are even more eager to check out these pop-up stores since they know they only have a few weeks or months to do so before they go forever.

Pop-up shops have many benefits, but probably the most significant is their ability to become long-term fixtures in their communities. Compared to suburban wasteland, where residents must drive 20 minutes to reach the nearest commercial center, towns with vibrant local businesses have stronger economies, closer-knit communities, and greater health. When you patronize a pop-up shop, you’re doing more than simply joining in on the excitement; you’re also contributing to the betterment of your community.

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