How to Prepare for Your First Pop-Up Shop

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My pop-up shop in January 2019
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My pop-up shop in August 2018

If you own an online boutique like me, or just started your own brick & mortar store, one of the best ways to get out there and network with customers and other business owners is to do a pop-up shop. You might be wondering,  But where can I do that?  Or How do I do that?  That’s what I hope to answer for you in this post!

Where to Host a Pop-Up Shop

There are often large events that request vendors to set up booths and sell their products. Think about large conferences, big farmers markets or bazaars, or even something as large as a music festival. There are also events solely dedicated to providing a space for vendor booths (such as the event I’ve done a few times in Austin called Le Garage Sale). Or there are opportunities to have a pop-up shop that is only for your own boutique, store, product, etc. For example, many brick and mortar stores have the opportunity and space for smaller businesses to have a pop-up either in their space or outside of their front doors. My friend just had a pop-up for her jewelry line at Nordstrom, and there are other larger stores or venues that allow you to do the same. You just have to do some research to find them! Lastly, there are often vacant retail spaces available for temporary pop-ups, however these tend to be much more expensive and are not the best route if it’s not a perfect location for your product and ideal customer.

How to Reserve a Space for Your Pop-Up Shop

In order to reserve a space for your pop-up, you must either contact the host of the event, send in an application for a vendor booth spot, or reach out to the brick and mortar store you’d like to have a pop-up at. There will typically be a fee to reserve a spot for your pop-up shop, which can range anywhere from $50 – $1000+). Be sure to research how much the vendor spot will cost before you apply!

Pro Tip: you don’t want to reach out to a competitor for a pop-up shop – for example, if you own an online boutique, don’t reach out to another boutique to see if they’ll host you. It’s most likely they will decline since you’re seen as their competitor and could steal their sales. Rather, reach out to a store that might have similar customers as you, but targets a different niche market. (Think jewelry store if you sell clothes, or hair salon if you sell beauty products (or even jewelry or clothes for that matter) – think about where your potential customers might hang out!)

What to Consider When Choosing an Event for Your Pop-Up

When considering a new event or space to host your pop-up shop, there are several things you’ll want to consider. First, will this event or location bring in the type of people that will be your potential customers? You want to set yourself up for success before the event even begins by holding your pop-up in a space that is sure to bring you people in your niche market who would be interested in your product. If you have a great pop-up but are in the wrong location or at the wrong event, it will be a waste of your time, effort and funds. Second, is the vendor fee worth it? Do you expect you’ll earn back the amount of money you put down to be there in the first place? This is another question I always consider when applying for a vendor booth space at an event. Always think about the risk vs. reward – is it worth it to spend x amount of money even if I don’t make it back in sales?  Or should I spend a larger amount than I would typically spend on this pop-up space because I know there will be a lot of potential customers and networking opportunities?  Of course, trying something new always comes with risks, but you can prepare ahead by weighing the risk vs. reward and deciding what is most important to you and your business.

What You’ll Need for Your Pop-Up Shop 

  • Lots of inventory (if it’s a tangible good) – it’s always better to have too much inventory than not enough! You don’t have to display all of your inventory at first, but rather have back-up inventory underneath a table or easily accessible in your car so you’re able to restock.
  • Credit card reader – you’ll definitely want to have at least one of these handy since most shoppers use credit cards
  • Cash and lock box/money apron – it’s always smart to have some cash available (preferably in 20’s, 10’s, 5’s and 1’s) in case you have customers that want to pay in cash. Have a lock box to protect your money or use a waist apron so you know it’s secure on your body and you don’t have to constantly keep an eye on it! Not the cutest look, but it’s what I always do to be on the safe side.
  • Signage – you want to advertise who you are and what you’re selling. Even if it’s just a sign with the name of your boutique or store name, that is already an easy step towards marketing.
  • Tables/rolling racks/shelves or whatever you need to properly display your product
  • Bags for check-out – most customers will want their purchase in a bag, so be sure to have these handy even if they’re the cheap ones from Target or a discount store.
  • Mirror (if selling jewelry, apparel, sunglasses, etc.) – if you’re selling anything that your customer might want to see on themselves, you’ll definitely need a mirror. While some customers might not need to look in a mirror to make a purchase, it will definitely increase your sales if you have one for those that deem it as necessary to see it on before they buy.
  • Pop-up dressing room – this isn’t a necessity (especially if your pop-up space is small), but it’s a great addition if you have the space! In my experience, many people don’t necessarily need to go to a dressing room to try something on, but most people will at least throw something on over their clothes to see how it fits. Others will not buy something if they can’t try it on in a dressing room. So it’s definitely a good idea to get one of these, if possible! There are a few types to choose from, but the most cost-efficient and easily portable are the pop-up tent and cabana-style portable dressing room.
  • Business cards for extra marketing – I slip one of these in each bag I give to my customers, plus have them handy for those that request more information.
  • Email list sign-up sheet – again, not a necessity, but a good idea to receive customer information and grow your email list.
  • Decor for your booth – This is my favorite part of preparing for a pop-up shop – designing what my booth will look like. I love to think of unique ideas that will make my booth stand out from the crowd and show more brand personality than just displaying my product alone. Plus, the more appealing your store looks, the more customers you’re bound to attract!
    Pro Tip: design your pop-up shop like a mini-store — I like to bring a rug, display a plant here or there, have varying displays (table, rolling racks, mannequin). You want your space to be both appealing and welcoming to customers so they want to stay and look at your products longer. 
  • Extra staff – this might be a no-brainer, but if your pop-up will be at a particularly large event or for long hours/multiple days, you’ll want at least one extra person to help you out! Even if you’re checking out all customers and answering most questions, the additional person can help restock inventory, be in charge of cash transactions while you’re in charge of credit/debit card purchases, answer easy questions, even hand out business cards. It’s nice to have extra support, even if they’re just helping out when you need a bathroom break.

How to Market for Your Pop-Up Shop

Once you have everything set in stone and have reserved your space on a specific date, start promoting the event! It’s never too early to start promoting, even if you start with advertising once a month until you get closer to the event date. Use any tools you have – social media (Instagram, Facebook), your email list, even word of mouth.

How to Stay Within Budget

When preparing for a pop-up shop, it can be easy to want to buy everything you see to make your pop-up look amazing. However, you’ll quickly realize that all of those decor and display items will add up! When first thinking about how you want to design your pop-up, think about what you already have around the house that you can use for decor. We had an old rug that I was thinking about throwing out but decided to keep and use it for pop-up events. It’s a little dirty and the colors have faded, so I wouldn’t want it on display in my house, but it’s perfect to add some personality to my pop-up and make it more welcoming for potential customers. Fake plants are another go-to of mine that I drag along with me to display amongst my product. Other items that you might not already own can be found for discounted prices on Amazon, at discount stores, or Target. Lastly, don’t forget about DIY! There are lots of cute items you could buy that might cost you much more than if you figure out how to create it yourself. And of course remember that you don’t need every little thing for your pop-up — choose what’s most important and what you can leave behind to save some money.

Set Goals for Yourself

To be honest, this is my least favorite item on this list. Because a pop-up shop can be unpredictable (especially if it’s your first one or you’re at a new location or event), it can be difficult to gauge how successful you’ll be. I am always hesitant to set a goal because I’ll be disappointed if I don’t achieve it! However setting goals is a great way to see if you’re on track with your expectations and at the very least if you’re making your money back that you spent for the pop-up space, plus a profit. If it’s your second or third (or tenth) go around, it’s also motivation to try and be more successful than your last pop-up and get more sales.

While this might not cover everything, these points will definitely help to prepare you for your first pop-up shop, as now you know what to expect. These are the basics of what you’ll need to prepare, but be sure to do additional research. Feel free to leave a comment if you have other suggestions or advice, or even if you just want to share your pop-up experience! I’d love to hear about it and what you learned. Wishing you the best of luck with your pop-up shop and remember that this is your first one! You’ll learn as you go and know how to better prepare for the next one – it’s all a learning experience.

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My pop-up shop in August 2018

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