Should You Start a Pop-Up Shop?

Many entrepreneurs today are taking advantage of a relatively new phenomenon called the pop-up shop to test the waters of a new business, or to take advantage of the latest trends or seasons. But what is a pop-up shop and what do you need to know in order to decide if you want to open one?

What is a Pop-Up Shop, Anyway?

A pop-up shop, also called a pop-up store, a temporary store, or seasonal retail, is very simply, a store that opens fast and generally stays open just a few days, weeks, or months. It is a store that is intended to be temporary.

Red box that reads “Special Deal Limited Time Offer!”

While the term is new, and many people think of it as a modern concept, the fact is that pop-up shops have been around for decades, maybe longer. Think back to when you were young… remember how near Halloween you would see small costume shops pop-up in empty storefronts? And near the Christmas holidays you would see Christmas tree lots springing up in parking lots across the city? In the summer you would see fireworks booths spring up on nearly every street corner.

Those were all pop-up shops.

Today, though, what has changed is that pop-up shops are as likely to spring up in empty shopping center and mall storefronts as they are in parking lots. And they are no longer relegated to selling holiday specific items. These temporary stores now sell everything from clothing to furniture, to toys to electronics, and anything in between.

And anyone can open one.

“Open” sign hanging in a window

Pop-up shops are growing in popularity because they require relatively little investment
and can be extremely lucrative. A pop-up store can be an end in itself – a way
to make money in a short amount of time. Or, they can be a test to determine if
this particular retail business is right for you.

For example, imagine you live in a town that is about to host the Superbowl. That brings with it at least a week of activity near the stadium. If you have property, or make relationships with people who do have property, near the stadium you could easily set up a parking booth for valet and parking services, and make a lot of money in that one week. This can be an end in itself – parking hundreds of cars
in the span of a single week. Or, it can be a way to test out your business plan to open a full-time parking service near the stadium, airport, or some other attraction.

 

Why Choose a Pop-Up Business over a Traditional Business?

 

1. A pop-up store allows you to test the waters of a new business venture. For many entrepreneurs, opening a business turns out to be different than they imagined. It can take more time, require more work, or cost more money than they prepared for. By doing a test run with a pop-up business you can be better prepared to start a full-fledged, permanent business.

A storefront with a bike and benches out front

2. Pop-up stores have a flexibility that traditional business doesn’t have. These temporary sales outlets can allow you to quickly adapt, taking advantage of customer fads and tastes quickly, while things are hot. You can change your inventory – and even your name – to suit the needs of customers at the time.

3. Owning a pop-up store can give you amazing flexibility in your own work schedule. You can work just when the pop-up is needed, and make enough money to support yourself all year. You might open a champagne store at New Years, a candy shop near Valentines Day, a store that sells nothing but green for a week around St. Patrick’s Day, and a toy store in the summer when a new big fad suddenly hits. There is no end to when and what you can sell, all on your own schedule!

Benefits of a Pop-Up Shop

There are many benefits to opening a pop-up, including:

  • Testing the waters before you dive right into a business headfirst.
  • Getting a short term rental on a storefront, or simply lease or buy a mobile cashier booth for very little cash out of pocket.
  • Easily changing locations if things aren’t working out, or reworking your business operations because you are not tied into long-term leases and contracts.
  • Testing out a location to see where the greatest demand is.
  • Expanding your business with less risk by bringing brand awareness to a new area. For example, say you own a craft beer brewery in one part of the city. Opening a pop-up store where you serve your beer in a different part of the city can help draw attention to your brand and bring people into your main store.
  • Creating demand. If you have a product or service that people want and even crave, they will show up in droves when it is available. You may even get a buzz going on social media helping you gauge demand and know when and where
    to open again.
  • Partnering with other businesses. For example, a food truck is really a type of pop-up store – it pops up outside bars and festivals. You can pop-up a valet service in cooperation with a local restaurant that is hosting a big event, or pop-up a Christmas tree lot in front of a grocery store.

How to Start a Pop-Up Shop

While setting up a pop-up store is easier than opening a permanent retail establishment, it still takes planning, work, and some financing. Following are some important steps to take before starting your own pop-up location:

A sign “Come in We’re Awesome.”

1. Create a plan. While a pop-up shop may not require a full and detailed business plan, you still need to plan out your goals, what you will sell to whom, and how you will finance the endeavor.

2. Figure out what you need. Based on the type of business you want to open, think about what you need as far as stock, signage, permits, etc.

3. Choose your location. You want to pick a location that is affordable, temporary, but most importantly, in the right place. For example, a business selling the latest children’s toys near the holiday season needs to be located near parents, so inside a shopping center or mall is probably a good choice. But some items are more spur of the moment decisions, like fireworks or parking spaces. Locating them in parking lots or along the road can make sense. If you choose a location without a storefront consider renting or purchasing a booth from which you can run operations.

4. Think through the logistics. There are many things you have to consider here including:
a. Where will you buy your stock for the best price?
b. Where will you store stock? Do you need to lease more storage or office space?
c. How will you accept payments?
(Hint: Paypal.com offers easy and inexpensive ways to accept credit card payments.)
d. How will you hire and pay staff?

A smart phone on a payment screen

5. Promote your pop-up store. While visibility with signage and lighting can attract passersby, you will want to bring in more customers through some marketing. If you don’t have a budget for traditional marketing you can always turn to social media. Your own social media outlets can be helpful, but also contact local bloggers in the same location and industry and try to use them to get your name out. Work with other local retailers to promote each other, as well. For example, you might handout coupons for the children’s clothing store down the road while they hand out coupons to your toy shop.

You can be a pop-up shop success story!

With a little planning and a lot of hard work, a pop-up shop could be the key to your financial future and help make you an entrepreneur! With a pop-up shop you can set your own hours, be your own boss, and test the waters for creating something even bigger in the future.

A delivery person going into a store

If you are ready to create your pop-up business, consider whether you might need to lease an external building and check out the following links:

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