When, Why and How to Host a Temporary Retail Space
It's an exciting time in retail, that's for sure. In fact, some might say it's never been easier to open a store (be gone retail apocalypse!). While at one point stores seemed like a thing of the past, the rise of the pop-up has dramatically shifted how the industry thinks about physical retail. Similar to the appeals of e-commerce, pop-ups and temporary locations offer brands a way to test and iterate quickly, without laying it all on the line with a costly, risky 10-year lease.
While temporary locations are an exciting opportunity for brands, it's important to evaluate why, when and how to run a pop-up shop in order to set yourself up for success. I've had a number of retail leaders and founders share how important it is to have a strategy when opening a store, while also being flexible and responding to feedback quickly in order to improve the customer experience once you open. You never know what consumers will throw at you.
Why to Open a Pop-Up Shop
While pop-ups are 80 percent less expensive than a permanent store, there are a number of alternatives for testing physical locations. Start by asking yourself why you want your own space to sell your product. Below are a couple of great reasons:
- You're vetting different neighborhoods for a future permanent location: You likely have online data of where your customers live, but pop-ups are a great way to confirm your suspicions.
- Your customers have been asking for it: You get messages from customers who want to come meet you in real life.
- Your products are "considered purchases": A pop-up shop gives your customers a chance to touch, feel and try your items prior to making a purchase, which is important if consumers view your your products as investments.
- You want more customer feedback: Pop-ups allow you to create a very quick, tight feedback loop between your customers and your team on what they love about your product assortment. You'll likely also get some key takeaways about ways to improve your e-commerce experience as well.
When to Do it (and for How Long)
If you feel like a pop-up shop is indeed the right move, then it becomes a matter of when — when to open and for how long. Both are completely up to you thanks to companies like AppearHere, so take advantage of available resources and be as strategic as possible. Holiday pop-ups have also become tremendously popular as everyone moves into shopper mode, however, the holidays aren't the only time to open a temporary store. Here are a couple of questions to ask yourself as you think about time line:
- Do you do particularly well in a certain season? A bathing suit company may fair better launching in the summer than around Christmas.
- Do you have a product launching soon? Launching a new product or moving into a new product category in tandem with a store opening is a great way to create a sense of urgency and excitement. Naadam's sweater-only store works as a good model.
- Is there a particular event that your customers love? Music festivals like Coachella have become a great platform for in-person activations.
As you think about timing, it's also important to factor in how long it will take to set up your store: location, staffing, inventory, fulfillment, and in-store technology (e.g., what point-of-sale system you'll use and how it will integrate with your e-commerce store) all need to be coordinated before you can open your doors. All in, you would likely want to budget three months to four months for opening a temporary space, but the more time you have the better.
How to Do it
The why and when should inform your how. What's most important is making sure you set up store operations in a way that enables you to track your key performance indicators (not just sales!) so you can assess the performance of your store. Lay out your expectations across your KPIs and see how you measure up week-by-week, making sure you're adjusting your strategy based on how each week goes.
For example, if you're thinking about your temporary store as a marketing opportunity, then you'll need to measure how many new people visited your store and website, and how many new subscribers you captured. On the other hand, If your goal is product feedback, how will your store team capture customer insights and share them with the rest of the company?
Most importantly, don't assume that if you build it, they will come. Regardless of what your goal is, you'll need to inform consumers that your pop-up shop exists to help drum up traffic. Therefore, make sure to map out the marketing schedule for pre-, during, and post-pop-up to ensure that you're squeezing everything out of your temporary spot.
Leigh Sevin is co-founder of Endear, a store marketing platform that empowers associates to engage customers over email and text with unique, relevant content.
Related story: DTC Brand Brooklinen Finds Success With Pop-Up Shop
Leigh Sevin is co-founder of Endear, a store marketing platform that empowers associates to engage customers over email and text with unique, relevant content. Brands like Margaux, Todd Snyder, and Koio count on Endear to invite customers to store events, notify them of product drops, and track how their messages impact sales both in-store and online.