Christmas pop-up shops – The pros and cons

Reports | Retail
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Empty shops are the plague of the modern High Street. Vacant shops, whether boarded up or privacy sprayed are unattractive, off-putting to shoppers, and a potential security risk.

As a nation of shoppers, we all want our vacant High Street shops to find a permanent occupant. This however, is not always possible. As footfall decreases and people increasingly spend more time shopping online, vacant shops are on the increase in towns and cities across the country.

If the likes of Primark, Debenhams, M & S, and Costa are reluctant to take over our vacant retail premises, perhaps it’s time to take a more ‘fluid’ approach to commercial leasing.

The rise and rise of the pop-up shop

A pop-up shop is the temporary (usually short-term) use of physical retail space to promote and sell a product or service.  In recent years, pop-up shops have become an increasingly common sight in shopping centres and High Streets throughout the UK.

After the 2008 recession, pop-up shops were promoted by retail consultant and broadcaster Mary Portas as a way to encourage consumer spending and boost the economy.

Pop-up shops are seen as a great way to ‘test the water’ without a full-scale financial commitment. They are often based around a certain time of year such as Christmas, Easter, Halloween, or Valentine’s day or a cultural occasion like a large sporting event, art exhibition or music festival. A pop-up shop allows a retailer to experiment with their brand and engage with their customers in a physical environment.

Like all retail enterprises, there are many pros and cons to the pop-up shop. As the festive season is now well and truly upon us, let’s take a closer look at the advantages and disadvantages of setting up a pop-up Christmas shop.

Pop-up Christmas shops PROS

  • Take advantage of increased consumer spending – A pop-up shop in a busy area can reap the benefits of festive Christmas shoppers
  • Test locations – A pop-up shop can be used as a trial run (possibly in several locations) prior to a more permanent physical store
  • Launch new products in a seasonal environment – Christmas shoppers are more likely to browse a diverse range of stores in search of presents
  • Promote brand awareness – Even if your pop-up shop isn’t an immediate success, if your brand is visible it will be more prominent in people’s minds when they see it in the future
  • Low fit-out cost – Many vacant shops already have some fittings and fixtures available to use
  • Help landlords to keep their premises occupied – You may be able to negotiate a discounted rate as landlords will always prefer some income to no income, especially on the short term
  • Give customers the opportunity to try a product before they buy – A recent survey suggested that 78% of shoppers looked at a product online before buying it in a physical shop

Pop-up Christmas shops CONS

  • The possibility that the shop may disappear before you have chance to return any goods
  • Potential for poor customer service and lack of product knowledge if workers are not sufficiently trained
  • May feel like an outlet store due to limited product range

As you can see, the positives of opening a pop-up shop greatly outweigh the negatives.  If you’re considering opening a pop-up shop, here are some things you should consider.

Managing your pop-up shop budget

Starting a new business or expanding an existing business can be difficult.  Careful planning is essential if you are going to be successful.  Perhaps the most important aspect of business planning is budgeting correctly.  Although temporary, you should approach the set-up of a pop-up shop the same way as any other business venture.

When allocating your budget, you will need to factor in:

  • Rental costs – try to find a balance between your perfect location and where is affordable
  • Utilities – shop around as you would in your personal life
  • Shop interior – look for a premises with existing fixtures and fittings that suit your requirements
  • Marketing and advertisement – a comprehensive marketing campaign can mean the difference between business success and failure
  • Window display – a successful window display will showcase your product and entice potential customers inside to see more
  • Stock – creating an inventory will help you to order the right amount of stock for the period you intend to trade for
  • Point of Sale – professionally designed POS can make your business feel fully developed rather than amateurish

Once you have a general idea of your overhead costs, you can start looking for a location for your pop-up shop.

The perfect pop-up shop location

The best location for your pop-up shop will depend on the products you are selling and your customer demographic.

For example, a boutique clothes store will have more footfall in an area full of independent clothing shops while a pop-up kiosk selling Christmas hats, scarves and novelty gifts should be located in the busiest area possible. If you are offering a unique or personalized product or service, the location will not be as important.

Within your budget, the best location is usually the busiest.

Here are a few potential locations for opening a pop-up shop:

  • Space inside an existing store – Renting retail space inside an existing premises will provide exposure to regular customers, reduced rental costs and association with an existing brand
  • Inside a shopping centre – Shops inside shopping centres have a higher credibility in consumer’s eyes.  Pop-up shops or kiosks inside shopping centres will attract footfall whatever the weather
  • High Street or independent area – As a general rule, similar shops tend to be located close together to provide customer convenience.  Do your research and look for opportunities near existing shops which sell similar products to yours
  • Event spaces and galleries – These spaces are designed for temporary exhibitions and will often be fitted with all you need to create an instant pop-up shop and save money in the process

There is much negativity around the British High Street at the moment with consumer confidence extremely low. Online shopping however, has not necessarily been the death sentence for the High Street as many people may think.  As we have seen, many people who browse products online, make their final purchase in a physical location.

Perhaps we are about to see a revival of the UK shopping experience as people seek out social contact and product interaction in a physical rather than virtual retail space.  Now could be the age of the pop-up shop.

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