How to Create a Pop-Up Shop

Modern retailers are using ephemeral shops as labs for the deluge of new technologies driving retailing. But pop-ups can also be meaningful test sites for future brick-and-mortar locations and can be the perfect place to introduce new product lines and collections. Still, driving sales and drumming up excitement around a brand certainly make the concept worth considering. “There’s something so fun and different about a temporary store,” notes Ashley Fidel, senior manager of business development and partnerships for New York City retailer BaubleBar, which has hosted numerous pop-ups. “It’s just a great way to bring in traffic.”

Planning for a pop-up? Here are a handful of considerations for your strategy notes.

Actress Eva Mendes feted her New York & Co. collection in March with a short-term shop at the Beverly Center in Los Angeles. (Angela Weiss/Getty Images for New York & Co.)

Create clear goals.
Pop-ups are fun for consumers and hard work for retailers, and their fruits can vary wildly—so going in knowing what you want to achieve is critical. “It’s a limited experience; you have to have clear goals,” says Obi Kaufmann, chief storyteller for fragrance brand Juniper Ridge, which has hosted pop-up shops in New York City. “Does the pop-up generate revenue or media, or both? And the parameters for success should be defined well in advance. We really thought about the customer experience.”

Pop-ups at New York City’s South Street Seaport have come, appropriately enough, in the form of shipping containers. (Randy Duchaine/Alamy)

Find a great location.
When choosing a spot for your pop-up, don’t sign on for a destination that shoppers have to go out of their way to discover—you won’t be open long enough to be discovered by many. Instead, find a storefront in a busy part of town that your target demographic already traverses. Inexpensive spaces are there for the taking, but when deciding between high-end and higher-end, spring for the more upscale spot.

As a way to test the New York City retail waters, British designer Pippa Small brought her luxe, bohemian jewels to East Village boutique LF8 for a week in April.

Consider partnering with an existing store.
Popping up inside another store is perhaps the most hassle-free way to stage a temporary retail experience—and can be an ideal format for jewelry retailers, whose products partner organically with a number of consumer categories, including apparel and spas/salons. Doug Schwartz, owner of Birmingham, Mich., store Complex, which hosts a revolving lineup of pop-ups, says a major upside to partnering with an established retailer is the hearty cross-promotion that can occur, generating a boatload of exposure for both businesses. But, he warns, “the retailer and the pop-up need to count on each other and create a get-it-while-it-lasts situation—this is really key.”

Men’s clothing e-tailer JackThreads went brick-and-mortar in NYC for two days in 2012. (Richard Levine/Alamy)

Set a timeline.
How long should your pop-up last? It depends on the location, the consumer response, and what you’re trying to accomplish. If you’re test-driving an iPad-based point-of-sale system, for instance, you may need a month or two to collect data. The same goes for introducing a product to a demographic that’s famous for generating word-of-mouth sales; you want to be open long enough to reap those rewards.

BaubleBar’s downtown New York City pop-up was only the beginning; now the online brand has carved out a spot in 117 Nordstrom stores indefinitely.

Create a promotion strategy.
Central to pulling off a rewarding pop-up experience, say retailers, is promoting it to within an inch of its gloriously brief life. BaubleBar builds online campaigns for its temp spaces, which often offer chances for shoppers to directly engage with the brand. For an early Nordstrom pop-up, BaubleBar solicited votes for a favorite fan-generated necklace, then put the winning design into production and sold it at the pop-up. Remember that heroic efforts on the digital marketing front will likely have long-lasting effects on your social media engagement—another good reason to pop up in the first place. When Juniper Ridge popped up in Brooklyn, “we got about 60,000 new followers across all of our platforms,” says Kaufmann. “It’s like, once the train leaves the station, it’s hard to stop it. And we’re still enjoying that.”

A version of this story originally appeared in the September 2014 issue of JCK magazine.

(Top: Silicon Valley Stock/Alamy) 

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JCK Senior Editor

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