How to test the water by launching a pop-up

How to test the water by launching a pop-up

Agility is a key buzzword in retail nowadays and there is no better representation of this than the sheer number of pop-up shops appearing across the country.

Appear Here, an organisation that offers pop-up shops to rent, has helped launch 4,000 pop-ups in London alone in the last 12 months.

This is in part a response to the fundamental shift in the property market from 20 years ago. In 1992 the average lease length was 20 years, but that has now reduced to under five years.

Despite this the way space is rented has largely remained unchanged and it is still a long, drawn out process that takes on average six months to complete, according to Appear Here brand lead Alice Ratcliffe.

Simplifying the process

Appear Here is attempting to take advantage of this painful process by offering a simpler and significantly quicker experience through the use of pop-ups.

Ratcliffe laid out the four main reasons for launching a pop-up at the Pure London exhibition.

These include the testing of a market for a new product, location or retail concept; creating an experience; connecting to a “moment” such as a big national event; or building “real-world relationships” if you are an online-only brand.

Jewellery brand John + Pearl fits into the first category. The opportunity came through necessity rather than design.

John + Pearl initially sold direct to retailers rather than consumers until a drop off in custom from Asia meant it was left with surplus stock.

Founder Julie Macauley decided a way of clearing stock would be to cut out the middle man and sell straight to shoppers through a pop-up shop.

The brand chose to take up space in a shipping container in Pop Brixton because the pop-up location was close to the company’s studio, and its lively location was a good fit for the brand.

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Perfect timing

Macauley says launching at Pop Brixton in July for two weeks was perfect timing because the jewellery it was selling at the time was brightly coloured and fitted in with the summer vibe.

Along with getting your timing correct, another important consideration is striking on a strong theme for the décor.

After the success of the Brixton pop-up, Macauley next launched another one in bustling Old Street tube station.

Picking a theme

The more expensive and significantly larger location meant some creativity was needed to create the right ambience on a budget, and as a result Macauley struck on an “urban jungle” theme.

This is involved display units made from cheap concrete breeze blocks that had been whitewashed, along with lots of plants.

“If you try and theme it somehow it is a really nice way of being able to dress the space and you are starting out with a very strong concept,” says Macauley.

Both Pop Brixton and Old Street station benefit from strong footfall, a crucial factor when choosing a pop-up location. Despite the high rents the Old Street location also turned a profit.

Building brand loyalty

Once you’ve got people through the door it is important to build up brand loyalty through high levels of service so they “leave the shop smiling”.

John + Pearl gave every customer a free tote bag to help market the brand and created a geo-location for the store so visitors could ‘check-in’ on social media sites, while the décor was designed to be “Instagram-able”.

In order to help capture customer data there were also in-store subscription competitions and giveaways.

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Opening permanently

All this gave Macauley the confidence she was ready to open her first permanent store, which was set up at Duke Street, having previously been another one of the brands pop-up locations.

Macauley says that if it were not for the pop-ups she “would never have made an offer on that shop”.

“Do not talk yourself out of something before you’ve had a shop,” concludes Macauley. “Give it a go and you can always find ways of being creative and it does not have to be perfect the first time.”