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Pop-ups: a shortcut to business growth?

by Conor McArdle, Opus Energy
29th Nov 18 2:55 pm

Christmas is one of the biggest times for retail brands, and it’s one of the most popular times of year for pop-up shops. But, if you’re a small business owner and thinking of starting your own festive pop-up, then what are the steps you need to take?

The rise of the pop-up shop has been almost meteoric, particularly over the last ten years. The phenomenon has grown hugely in popularity to coincide with the growth of e-commerce and the changing face of the traditional high street.

The pop-up format is hardly new. Farmers markets, or seasonal markets around Christmas, for example, could be considered the original pop-ups, appearing for short periods before disappearing. It’s this sense of fleetingness that makes the format so popular with consumers.

The method appeals to brands for a different reason: it allows businesses to test their viability with less of the associated risks or costs. The opportunity to experiment with a high-street presence without breaking the bank is great, particularly when it can also help to increase brand awareness and reach new customers.

The good news for up-and-coming businesses is that the pop-up phenomenon is not slowing down. The industry was estimated to be worth £2.3bn a year to the UK economy in 2015, and it’s still growing. So how can up-and-coming businesses get involved in the action?

Finding a space

The first step is to find a location and premises, but where do you start? Luckily, there is a growing number of companies that are catering to businesses and entrepreneurs looking for spaces on short-term lets. Using an intermediary like Appear Here can help to remove some of the difficulties associated with short-term commercial lets, but not all of them. One of the significant stumbling blocks is that to secure your desired location, you must pitch your business to the landlord of the premises and hope they agree to let the space to you.

There are several other challenging constraints you’ll have to work within. Cost, availability, and location are all primary concerns; the space you want may not be available at a time which suits you, or it may fall outside of your ideal area. When you plan to open will also impact these elements. Christmas, for example is a competitive time of year and may impact the availability and cost of suitable spaces.

Then there are secondary concerns too. Depending on the nature of the business, you may need certain permits. For example, if you want to play music, you might need to obtain a PRS licence. Or if you’re looking to serve food and drink, there are food safety concerns that you need to investigate. You may also need to consider short-term insurance arrangements to cover you whilst your pop-up is operating.

Designing your space

Even though you may be open for a limited time, the design of your retail space is still a critical aspect to attract passing footfall. Like any shop: it needs to be eye-catching, engaging and interesting, especially as it will exist for such a short time.

Finding a space that not only fits your essential criteria, but also the aesthetic of your brand will be challenging. So, it’s important to keep aside a budget for design purposes, as you can always bring in extra materials to change the aesthetic of a space. You’ll have to work within the terms of your lease to design the space in a way that the landlord finds acceptable as well.

Open season

Because your shop will only be open for a short time, it’s important to make the most of every opportunity. Make sure to bring along printed marketing material that people can take away even if they don’t make a purchase. Business cards, flyers, leaflets with offers… anything that will jog peoples’ memories a few days or weeks down the line.

Signposting people towards your online presence, whether that’s social media channels or a website, can help to improve brand awareness too.

Then there are the functional, practical things to figure out. We don’t need to tell you how important keeping track of all your sales is, so don’t forget to make sure your point-of-sale system is up to scratch before opening day. Another consideration is that given most people are ditching cash in favour of card, accepting card payments could be a make-or-break element.

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