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How to Make a Retail Pop-up Shop Successful


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Retail pop-ups have become an essential tool in retail for driving experiences and finding new customers. Whether you are a mom-and-pop business or a large multichain retailer, there are essential elements to making a pop-up successful.

What is a pop-up? A retail pop-up is a temporary, physical retail location that is set up for a limited time to achieve specific retail goals. Last year was the year for pop-ups. Little and big brands alike have created their own experiences to engage consumers. Big brands such as Nike, Tide (detergent) and Penguin (publisher) all had pop-ups in 2018, each aiming to do something distinctive and impactful.

Before you run off and start building pop-ups, take some time to map out your goals. Having a temporary location can be highly profitable, but you want this initiative to achieve something besides sales. You want to learn something from it, and you want to connect with your consumers to expand your brand. 

Let’s get into it. Why might you want to do a pop-up?

1. Create awareness, draw attention and generate excitement. Social media is not the only way to drive excitement or draw attention. A pop-up allows you to interact with consumers and gather feedback and test your pitch. Payless Shoes did a great job of this by creating a fake luxury store. 

2. Test a new location or product. Ever wondered if a different customer from the one who visits your store might like your assortment? A pop-up allows you to find a new location and demographic to test with minimal effort. It also allows you to test a different presentation style, or try new products out to see if consumers like them before you commit to carrying them in your lineup. 

3. Create a new revenue stream. Do you ever wish that your store was in a different location? Or do you see consumer traffic walking in a direction that takes people away from your store location? A pop-up is a great way to plant a temporary interrupter in the midst of consumer traffic to see if you can get consumers to take notice of your store or brand. ToysRUs did this over the holidays by utilizing Kroger’s grocery spaces. 

Sizing Up Your Location and Inventory

As you get into pop-ups, logistics are inevitably going to get in the way. Operations—finding a location and choosing inventory—are critical to a good pop-up experience.
How do you decide where to place your pop-up? Find places where your target market heads to, or where your product mix is bound to be a hit. If you are at a loss for locations, there are companies that can help pick the most optimal locations for you. Uppercase (uppercasehq.com) has been doing this for a few years now and offers a host of services to help your pop-up get off the ground. Another great company is Pop-up Republic (popuprepublic.com), which also offers a great set of resources to get you started. 

These companies are skilled in the art of pop-ups. They can manage your pop-ups or simply help you learn the ropes of running a successful, efficient and profitable pop-up.
How do you know how much inventory to bring? What happens when you run out of stock? Remember that pop-up shops are not designed to be perfect. They are designed to be experiential. 

Ten years ago, it was unacceptable to run out of stock. Today’s consumer recognizes that an out of stock means that the item is popular and should be sought after. Don’t try to forecast for every unit you might need—forecast for reaching the consumer in the most experiential way possible. In a two- or three-day pop-up, it is acceptable to share that you have run out because of popular demand. Put on your customer service hat and offer to deliver or ship them the popular product to keep the conversation going.

At the end of the day, retail pop-ups are a great way to test and learn, and, ultimately, create a new way to expand your business. They can be a great tool for brands and retailers looking to expand economically, and to reach new consumers or simply drive attention to your brand. Be sure to offer a great experience to the consumer and be ready to receive lots of great feedback and sales. 


As a retail industry expert and co-host of “This Commerce Life” podcast, Phil Chang tracks emerging trends and insights that could impact businesses engaged in commerce. With 20 years of experience under his belt, Chang helps brands and retailers adapt to the new realities of retail and the next generation of commerce. With three kids, he’s more familiar with gen Z than he’d care to admit. A frequent speaker at industry events in Canada and the U.S., across multiple verticals, you’ll find him searching for unique local businesses everywhere he goes. 

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