How to Open the Perfect Pop-up Store

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Hint: don’t just rock up with a stack of stock and hope for the best.

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It’s easy to see the appeal of opening up a pop-up store; it’s often a more flexible and affordable way to dip your toe into the retail market without any of the long-term commitments. However, as photographer and serial pop-up merchant Elizabeth Bull explains, there’s a little more to it than just showing up with the goods and crossing your fingers.

“Pop-up stores are the perfect avenue to test a new product line, get in front of more customers, take your online business offline or try out a location for a permanent bricks and mortar store,” says Elizabeth, whose initial foray into the pop-up scene ultimately catapulted her online art gallery, One Fine Print, into existence. “Do your research first but after that, just give it a go,” she says.

 

Location, location, location
“Spend time visiting areas that you think will work for your business,” advises Elizabeth, who opened One Fine Print’s first pop-up store in the highly popular shopping district of Fitzroy, Melbourne, early last year. “Look at other nearby retailers. Are they similar? In the case of a pop-up store, competition can be really beneficial as established businesses in a similar field to you may already be drawing prospective customers to the area.” Also pay attention to the level of foot traffic around your potential pop-up store, says Elizabeth, who advises you ask yourself the following questions before settling on a store: Are the passers-by within your target market? Are there enough people around? Do people visit the area because it’s near a station, bus stop, supermarket or cafe strip? Do people visit during both the week and weekend?

Pop-up during busy periods
“Pick your dates to coincide with busy times in retail, such as the lead up to Christmas,” suggests Elizabeth, who’s currently in the midst of her third pop-up store in Clifton Hill, Melbourne. “The advantage of a short-term retail space is that you don’t have to operate in the slow periods if you don’t want to.”

Be flexible
While some real estate agents will undoubtedly be reluctant to offer a short-term lease, others might be more receptive – especially if their premises have been vacant for a while. “Remember, you are not necessarily the ideal tenant compared to a business looking to sign a five-year lease,” warns Elizabeth. “It does help to be flexible, which might see you fit into a property that has been empty for a while, is waiting on building permits, or needs to be occupied immediately.” But be realistic, says Elizabeth. “There is no point asking for a short-term lease that you want to start in 12 months’ time.”

Keep costs down
While collaborating with another store is a great way to keep costs to a minimum, there are other ways to save your cents. For example, steer clear from a space that requires a lot of preparation to make it presentable. “Depending on how long you plan to stay, it might not be worth taking a particular shop if you need to do a lot of cosmetic alterations,” says Elizabeth, who recommends aiming to have a store ready to sell within a day or two. Check the condition of the floors and walls and consider whether you would need to build walls or shelves – all of which can be time consuming and expensive. “A lick of paint will go along way in freshening up and brightening the space and is cost effective.”

Prioritise your presentation
While you want to keep unnecessarily expenses to a minimum, there are certain areas where you can’t cut corners. “Signage and window decals are important,” says Elizabeth. “You want people to know you are there and what you are about.” The same goes for the way you display your wares. “It’s important to be clever with your presentation and really think about the best way to showcase your product,” she advises. “If you are an online retailer, you are giving your clients the opportunity to see and touch your product, so you want them to look their best!”

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