Pop up shops are popping up all over London and beyond. They are injecting some much needed energy into Britain’s struggling high streets.

During the recent economic downturn, the high street took a huge battering and it wasn’t just small independent shops that were hit. There were several high profile casualties amongst the huge retailers – HMV, Woolworths and Blockbuster, to name but three.

Nature abhors a vacuum, of course. Economic shellshock combined with technological  advances and the changing needs of consumers spells disaster for some –  those who fail to adapt to the rapidly evolving environment. However on the plus side, it also promotes innovation, as the newer brands with fresh ideas quite literally take up the space vacated by the old guard. Amongst these emerging trends, it is Pop Up Shops which seem to have captured the imagination of both the public and new start up businesses.

Last month, I had first hand experience of running a Pop Up Shop in Piccadilly with my new candle business – Wick and Tallow. It was a great success so much so we are doing it again this month, between the 12th and 18th.

Pop Up Shops - Alice with Prince Andrew visiting Wick & Tallow's shop in Piccadilly

Alice with Prince Andrew visiting Wick & Tallow’s Pop Up Shop in Piccadilly

So What are Pop Up Shops?

Pop Up Shops – also called flash retailing – first appeared in Los Angeles, with retailers opening temporary shops in empty premises, selling limited edition, niche products – and then closing the store, once they have sold out. The concept has spread to Canada, Australia and Britain.

The beauty of Pop Up Shops is giving young and aspiring brands direct access to consumers.

Popup Britain gives 10 brands a weekly chance to set up a Pop Up shop on some of Britain’s busiest, high profile shopping locations. There is great emphasis on products “Made in England” and it is a fabulous way of giving young designers and aspiring entrepreneurs instant access to their market  – as well as a fabulous opportunity to network.

Pop Up shops also give small businesses access to the very best high street locations, that would otherwise be completely unattainable. Wick and Tallow’s Pop Up was in Piccadilly, which just wouldn’t have been an option, if we’d opened a shop in the traditional manner.

As well as being great initiative for both new brands, Pop Up Shops are  also a fresh, new concept for the customers – as well as an opportunity to  introduce them to products they may not have come across before. The customer is getting something new and British –  not to mention a more personal shopping experience. Many customers like the story behind the product. If you meet the designer, the chances are you are going to hear that story. You don’t that when you click “proceed to check out” on Amazon!

So, how do you go about setting up a Pop Up Shop

I’ve picked out some Q&A’s from the leading experts on Pop Up Shops – to help you avoid the pitfalls and take full advantage of the opportunity.

What are the most important factors in choosing locations for Pop Up Shops?

Tristan Pollock (the co-founder of Storefront, a marketplace for short-term retail space, which works with local and national brands to set up pop-up stores all over the country):

You want to be in a high foot traffic area. If it’s shopping foot traffic, even better. This will save you the headache of trying to drive all your store traffic yourself. You also want to be in an area and on a street that fits your brand and experience. That means choosing the right neighborhood with the right retailers and businesses nearby.

How can you ensure a return on investment given the cost of setting up a pop-up shop?

Becky Jones (from PopUp Britain, which gives online retailers the space and opportunity to set up a pop-up shop for two weeks at a time):

It’s worth trying to reduce fit out, visual merchandising and marketing costs by offering suppliers profile as a sponsor in exchange for assistance or free materials. You may also be able to team up with a leisure-based space provider. I’ve seen a men’s fashion retailer popup in an East London barber shop, and a jewellery brand popup in an edgy bar – both running joint events and both benefitting from the increased footfall and customer interest.

How do you create a buzz around your new pop-up?

Ross Bailey (the founder of Appear Here, an online service which partners landlords with retailers. He has also set up his own pop-ups across London):

This is where your creativity comes into play as the best pop-ups get people talking and leave a lasting impression. How about giving your shop a theme or linking it up with a national event, or bringing energy into the shop with live music or a free drink? With every shop we launch ourselves, I try to create an ‘instagram moment’ – something quirky and fun that stops shoppers in their tracks and leaves them with an experience to share with friends.

From the biggest fashion houses to the tiniest vintage eBay retailers, everyone knows that social networks can be a great way to drive people to your shop and create a buzz about your brand. Make the most of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, post plenty of photos, engage with your users, invite key influencers and bloggers and get your friends to come down and talk about you online.

And my own Pop Up Shop experience…

My own experience with Wick and Tallow has proved to me that Pop Up Shops:

  • give you direct access to customers who wouldn’t normally see your product.
  • open up great networking opportunities between young start ups.
  • are very affordable in locations that would otherwise be in the realms of fantasy!
  • are a great place to meet buyers for the larger retailers.
  • are an excellent way to generate press interest.