In the frigid February air of Boston, my mission was simply to get from point A, Park Street, to point B, the North End. I had no intentions of pausing, but while walking through Faneuil Hall I was compelled to do a double take after seeing that Uniqlo, one of my favorite clothing retailers, had suddenly opened a store. Something about it felt off though --it was oddly small, but charmingly so. When I walked in, I learned that it was a pop-up shop, Uniqlo’s way of introducing their brand to Boston and prefacing the establishment of six permanent stores around the area.
Pop-up shops are temporary retail spaces that typically stay open for anywhere from one day to three months, suited for any kind of merchandise. Clothing retailers like Uniqlo use empty store space while food and beverage companies tend to use food trucks or stands and booths at farmers’ markets. Although today an increasing number of sales are made online, a brand’s physical presence is still a significant factor of its success. Pop-up shops are a great way to ensure an impactful physical presence. Here are five reasons why you should open one today:
For startups, a pop-up shop in a high traffic area is a great marketing tool to gain awareness and recognition. Storefronts are a form of advertisement themselves. A unique, visually stimulating space will attract curious shoppers even if they’ve never heard of your name before.
2. Brand Building
So you have a large online following; people already know you. Pop-up shops are a great way to extend your brand and make your story more palpable through two things: the appearance of the shop and the people working in it. With a carefully thought-out floor plan as well as strategic product displays, you can create a unique shopping experience for your customers that speaks to your brand. The next time those customers visit your website, they’ll remember that experience in your shop and clicking through your website will mean a lot more to them than it did before.
In a time where most communications occur online, face-to-face interactions can go a long way in helping customers feel a connection to your brand that goes further than seller-buyer. That being said, make sure that you are very careful and selective about the in-store employees you hire. Find someone who will best sell your brand, and not just someone who can sell a product.
In your temporary shop, you can test everything -- products, markets, promotions, etc. See what products sell better than others or what locations have higher sales than others. When the time comes to open your own permanent shop, what location will do best? If you already have a permanent store, and want to expand your stores, where should you open your next one? You may even learn a thing or two about your customers. Perhaps you are capturing a specific genre of people that is different than your original intended audience.
Pop-up shops are low-budget friendly and non-committal. You don’t have to worry about signing a two year lease and risk incurring costs from low sales. If you have a specific budget, you can rent out the space for a certain amount of time based on that number. Many people rent out their spaces on a month to month or day to day basis. You can find spaces on sites like Storefront, the Airbnb of retail space. Storefront connects ‘brand owners’ to ‘space owners.’ Plenty of space owners on their site offer daily rates, making it easier for you to stay within your specific budget.
As we’ve said before, brick and mortar shops boost sales. People are more likely to buy products when they see the physical items in front of them and can test them out. With pop-up shops, there’s an added bonus. Pop-up shops are a niche free-spirited thing that give you lots of freedom. There is no expectation that you operate on normal retail hours of 10 am to 5 pm or so. You can decide to open your store only on specific days and times like Mondays and Fridays from 12-3. This creates a sense of urgency that is amplified by the fact that your store is only temporarily open, leading shoppers to buy more impulsively and in larger quantities.
Aya Tsuruta is a Content Marketing Journalist at Repsly where she covers sales and marketing content through a creative lens. In addition to writing for Repsly, she is a frequent contributor to the music blog, Indie Music Filter, and BC magazine, the Gavel.