Main Content

Back to Blog List

  • 13 March 2014
  • Eric Michaels

Pop-up shops: The commitment-free way to get off the ground

Have you ever seen a store literally pop up on a street corner, inside a vacated establishment, or in the middle of a shopping center? These pop-up shops were hot during the recession, but business owners also may use them as a commitment-free way to get off the ground in any climate. Here is why you may want to use a pop-up approach to launching your enterprise.

It's cheaper

Using a commercial real estate broker to find you a space for your business is an expensive proposition. When you are not sure whether your concept will launch successfully, the risk is multiplied several times. Pop-ups take advantages of subleases or limited-term contracts between longer leases.

Word-of-mouth buzz precedes Internet buzz, but you can create a viral stir by showing up in person to present your product to a receptive audience.

Building owners with space to fill and renters who want an early exit are more willing to negotiate a deal of this kind. As a result, you will be able to find your low-cost entry into the market. But that does not mean you should take it any less seriously than you would a full commercial lease.

You will get a real-world market test

Introducing a product or service that uniquely targets a market in your area is a tough task. Even the best research can fall flat on its face when you show up in a neighborhood that refuses to embrace your business. Pop-up shops offer the ability to conduct your own market test and alter your approach in real time.

If you invest heavily in a lease, employees, and product inventory but miss your mark, you will have a much bigger burden of debt to resolve. The pop-up setting also provides an informal way to learn who your ideal customer is and what he or she wants. Internet feedback is great; this type of response is priceless.

Work out the kinks live

Making blunders and revising your strategy are moves that always come at the start of a live launch. If you have taken the pop-up approach to a store opening, you have the opportunity to stumble in terms of accepting payments, shipping, responding to customer complaints, and other aspects of running a shop.

You also have the opportunity to see whether your brand is capable of expanding. One famous pop-up experiment in New York involved John Fraser, the successful chef of Dovetail on the Upper West Side. Upon hearing about a vacated restaurant downtown, Fraser decided he would not only use the space as a pop-up for nine months, he upped the ante by changing the concept every month. Every 30 days, new decorations, lighting, and menu choices hit the pop-up restaurant until its scheduled demise. Fraser used it as a way to hone his craft and test ideas for his next venture.

Pop-up shops provide instant hype

Some business owners use pop-ups as a means to promote and launch an online retail product or service. You may not have plans to actually open a brick-and-mortar store in the future, but a pop-up can allow you to hype your business in an unconventional way.

Word-of-mouth buzz precedes Internet buzz, but you can create a viral stir by showing up in person to present your product to a receptive audience. Businesses big and small have been using New York and Los Angeles as incubators for pop-up projects, but the concept works in any community where you see a market for your product.

When you open a store with a long-term obligation, there are many risks. A pop-up store offers many of the same benefits without the commitment attached. It makes sense for any entrepreneur who wants a soft launch before diving in with both feet.

Back to Blog List