8 Easy Steps To Help You Create Your Own Pop-Up Store

Transient storefronts are all the rage. Here’s a useful guide for making your own whiz-bang retail idea a reality.

8 Easy Steps To Help You Create Your Own Pop-Up Store
[Image: Confetti via Shutterstock]

Pop-up shops are becoming a more popular way of testing out retail concepts, refreshing a street, and extending online brands to the physical world. In New York alone, there are an estimated 200 temporary storefronts at any one time, and the variety is growing: from pure retailing to showrooms to brand “experiences.”

Read about PopUpHood, a plan to revitalize part of Oakland using only pop-up stores.

Storefront is a web site we’ve covered before: it matches up physical spaces with people who need them (there are other similar platforms like PopUpInsider). The firm recently published a nice guide to would-be pop-uppers, which you can download here. Below is a summary of some of the main points.

1: How To Pitch

Storefront says it’s important to understand the situation from an owner or broker perspective. Why would they want you in the first place? Their ideal tenants are long-term successive–a dependable income stream. Putting in a short-term tenant could complicate that. On the other hand, getting someone in for a while does bring in some income and avoids the place looking dead.

“It’s helpful to emphasize that having an occupant now could ultimately lead to more demand for the space or an even a more lucrative, long-term tenant,” the guide says. If you’ve had sales online, emphasize those too, and generally appear like you’re going to draw people through the door. If you’re looking for a short-short term proposition, “owners of boutiques, event spaces and other unique retail spaces” may be the best prospects.

2: What To Ask For

Once you’ve found someone willing to talk, you’ll want to ask sensible questions. These might include whether the building is up to code, utility costs, and what control you can have over the space. In turn, you’ll have to be able to answer questions about how you intend to use the space, and when the owner can have it back.

3: Decide What You Need

You need to decide what your needs for the store are, such as how long you want it. Storefront says renting part of a bigger space may allow you to move in sooner, and pay less money. But it could cramp your style: You won’t have as much control of your surroundings. If you are only in there for one or two weeks, the owner may give you a license instead of a lease, which will give you less rights. You’ll also have to work out whether you need a permit to comply with local health and safety regulations.

4: The Fine Print

Check through the legal agreement for details like modifications (are you allowed to make any?), “defaulting” (what happens if you want to break the lease?), store hours, electrical sockets, and lighting. (The guide also includes a section on what to expect in a leasing agreement).


5: Designing The Store

Once you’ve signed the lease agreement (hooray!), start thinking about the shop itself and how you plan to sell what you’re selling. You’ll have to match the merchandise to the demographic of the neighborhood, package the goods appropriately, and think about sales support: How much information do customers need for purchasing whatever it is?

6: Develop A Story

Storefront recommends you think about what type of experience you want to create. Is the goal to get people to browse and stay as long as possible, or is it simply to sell, sell, sell? You might think of staging social activities like workshops or discussion panels, and inviting in other brands that complement your work. Think about floor plan, wall colors, graphics, decor, interior architecture, fixtures, and signage.

7: Construct The Space

Conduct a full site audit, from door sizes to ceiling heights, and make sure you’re in compliance with building ordinances. Prepare the site (mechanical systems, plumbing, lighting, flooring, walls) and decide on what sort of fittings you need. Hire designers, builders, and transportation, if necessary.

8: Market Your Pop-Up

“Develop your key messages for why people should care about your pop-up,” the guide says. Spread the word through blogs and social media, and cross-promote with “neighboring businesses to help drive more foot traffic into the area.” Think about special offers for your launch.


About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.