If you’re ready to take your virtual business to a bricks-and-mortar model, a pop-up store is a low-commitment way to test out the storefront experience. Pop-ups, or temporary stores launched for a short period of time in empty retail spaces, are making appearances across the country, with retailers such as Frank & Oak, Etsy and Holt Renfrew taking part in the temporary storefront trend.
A carefully planned and well-timed pop-up can help take your business to the next level.
“Pop-ups bring excitement to a business,” says Gay Stephenson, community economic development coordinator at WoodGreen Community Services and administrator of the Danforth East Community Association’s Pop-Up Shop Project in Toronto. “People like to explore something different and unusual.”
A carefully planned and well-timed pop-up can help take your business to the next level by introducing your product to a new clientele and giving you the opportunity to receive face-to-face feedback from customers. But renting a storefront before you’re ready could be a costly mistake. Here Stephenson offers her tips on planning for a successful pop-up experience.
Timing is Everything
The time to consider a pop-up is when you begin to see an uptick in sales from a diverse clientele. “Having a pop-up shop could be a good way to test your product’s appeal to a wider market,” Stephenson says.
“Seasonality can also make a big difference in your shop’s success. For example, a jewelry business might do best in the holiday season, while a retailer of outdoor goods would likely attract customers in the summer months,” Stephenson suggests. Choose your timing strategically to make the most of the experience.
A pop-up shop can be a costly endeavour and should be a well thought-out part of your business plan. Expenses go beyond rent and utilities (which Stephenson says can cost anywhere from $750 to $1,200 per month in Toronto’s Danforth East area) and can include display fixtures, window displays, and permits if you’re selling food products. You may also be on the hook for the cost of small repairs to the space, such as patching holes in the wall left by wall fixtures.
You’ll also need to significantly increase your inventory. “All of the e-commerce entrepreneurs who have moved into physical locations through our pop-up program have experienced an incredible increase in sales, so you need to have enough stock to meet that demand,” Stephenson advises.
Promote Your Pop-Up
Digital promotion is a good way to let your current customers know you’re planning a pop-up. Send out a special newsletter to your mailing list, post a note on your website, and ramp up your social media promotion leading up to your opening date. But don’t underestimate how effective a simple printed promotion can be. “One of the best things you can do when going into a new neighbourhood is to deliver door-to-door flyers,” Stephenson advises.
Ask for Advice
Finding good mentorship is key to pop-up success. Look to local business associations and established retail business owners for inside information on the neighbourhood and what appeals to local customers. A mentor can also give you pointers on how to set up your space, manage your time and handle in-person customer service issues.
Face-to-face interaction in a retail space can go a long way in helping you develop lasting relationships that will help you grow your business over the long term. With solid planning, a pop-up shop can be a lucrative venture for you – and a fun experience for your customers.