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Try before you buy: Pop-up retail for small businesses

Pop-up stores – also known as pop-up retail, pop-up shops or flash retailing – have evolved greatly since Japanese fashion brand Comme des Garçons launched the concept in Berlin in 2004 to offload its old stock.

Today, businesses of all sizes and across a diverse range of industries open these temporary sales spaces for a variety of reasons. Here’s our guide to how your small business can start its own pop-up shop.

Is a pop-up store right for your business?

There are many occasions when you might want to consider branching out into pop-up retail. In particular, it can be a good option to consider when you want to:

  • Launch or trial a new product or service
  • Showcase the expansion of your range or offering
  • Clear old season stock
  • See whether your market stall or online business will work as a bricks-and-mortar store
  • Create hype around your brand for a limited edition, seasonal or event-focused product or service
  • Test your business in new markets before you set up a more permanent store
  • Create a special, one-off brand experience or event.

The benefits of pop-up shops

Pop-up stores are a great way for small businesses like yours to test the retail market. They allow you to gain an insight into how your store would perform in a given location before you commit to a permanent site or a long-term lease – and the significant investment in store fixtures, fittings, equipment, and so on that comes with it.

There are many advantages to pop up stores, as they are:

  • Short term and low risk
  • Generally, cost effective
  • Good for increasing awareness of your brand
  • One way to connect you to new customers
  • A means by which online businesses can meet and engage with customers face-to-face.

Things to consider in setting up your pop-up store

Location

The increasing popularity of pop-up shops has seen the choice of spaces available to small businesses for these stores become broader. Locations open to pop-up retailers now include empty street front stores, galleries, studios, event spaces, and stalls within shopping centres.

When you’re choosing a location for your own pop-up store, make sure you consider:

  • Its current foot traffic and how busy the area is in general
  • Whether the space complements your brand
  • If the space has what you need to design your desired pop-up shop
  • Accessibility – how easy is it for customers to get to you?
  • Security – for example, can you lock the space overnight?
  • Internet access – particularly if you need to be online to manage your sales and inventory, play music, and so on.

There are a number of websites that can help you find potential pop-up store locations in Australia, including Pop Up Shops, Casual Leasing Australia and SpaceBook.

Some local councils, including the City of Sydney, run short-term tenancy programs to make better use of empty shop fronts. It’s worth checking whether this is an option in your area before you make your decision.

Finance

Getting your head around the amount of money you’ll need to open and run your pop-up store is something you should allocate a generous amount of time and attention to.

While the exact amount you’ll need will depend on the nature of your business, some key costs to work into your budget include:

  • Rent
  • Staff
  • Furniture, lighting and fittings
  • Inventory
  • Marketing and promotion
  • Your point of sale system and its related fees
  • Insurance
  • Permits – for example, to serve food or alcohol.

It’s worth checking out businesses that specialise in the hire of fittings, fixtures and even modular buildings for pop-up stores, such as Spacecube, Showfront and Instant Retail, to get an idea of how much you’ll need to invest.

And it’s always a good idea to factor in a percentage of your costs for an emergency fund to cover any unexpected expenses that may arise. If you need a small business loan to help you fund your pop-up store, get in touch with Prospa to see if we can help.

Marketing

Creating a sound marketing plan to promote your pop-up shop will play a big part in its success. This could include:

  • Dropping flyers around the area where your pop-up store will be
  • E-newsletters to your database subscribers
  • Promoting it on your website and in store (if you already have a shop)
  • Giving customers pamphlets that invite them to your pop-up store with every purchase
  • Advertising and posting on social media in the build-up to the launch.

Your pop-up store checklist

Before embarking on a pop-up retail project, be sure to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you have a clear vision for what you want to achieve from your pop-up store?
  • Do you have a detailed plan and budget?
  • Have you arranged for or put aside the funds to open your pop-up shop?
  • Have you developed a marketing plan?
  • Have you secured the location and got everything you need in place to start?
  • Have you arranged back-ups for when things don’t go to plan – for example, if you sell more stock than you anticipate, staff don’t show up, or your payment system goes down?

If you answered ‘yes’ to most of the above, then you’re ready to go.

Prospa may be able to help you fund your pop-up store with a small business loan. Find out how much you could borrow to grow your business.

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The information in this post is provided for general information only and does not take into account your personal situation. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs, and where appropriate, seek professional advice from financial, legal and taxation advisors. Although every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of the information as at the date of publication, Prospa, its officers, employees and agents disclaim all liability (except for any liability which by law cannot be excluded), for any error, inaccuracy, or omission from the information for any reason, including due to the passage of time, or any loss or damage suffered by any person directly or indirectly through relying on this information.

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