Common sense says there must have been a time before the concept of a pop-up shop existed, but we sure don't remember it. The temporary retail experience has become ubiquitous, if not obligatory, among brands looking to experiment with a brick-and-mortar space or attempting to build a little buzz in a new location. But with a landscape littered with ghosts of flash retail past, how can you stand out among the crowd?
Stephanie Pappas, founder of Open Gallery Space, has some ideas. Open Gallery Space, an 1700 sq ft retail location on the Bowery in New York City, has been home to a rotating roster of temporary stores, from Kanye's Yeezus Tour Merch-a- Palooza to the comparatively staid General Idea outlet this past September. Suffice it to say, then, that Stephanie's seen a lot of pop-ups in her day, and has a pretty good idea of what does and does not work. We went straight to the source and asked her for her top five tips for hosting a successful pop-up shop.
No re-treads. "The presentation needs to be innovative," Stephanie says. While great product is always the first priority, if your pop-up looks like every other pop-up, you're starting out a few steps behind. Need to know what's been done? Racked has exhaustive pop-up coverage in their New York hub.
Hit the local press. Stephanie advises aiming to land local media coverage before your shop opens, to ensure that shoppers know about the pop-up from the moment they're able to shop. No matter how great your location, foot traffic alone is probably not enough. Using press to make your pop-up a destination is key.
Line up some in-store programming. Any shop benefits from the crowds brought in during special events and parties, even if you're only looking at a window of a few weeks. "The in-store event is a moment to draw attention and bring life to the brand," Stephanie says. "It also affords the creatives behind the scenes the chance to connect on a personal level with the clientele and industry supporters."
Get to 'gramming. The importance of a robust social media campaign timed to the pop-up's dates of operation cannot be understated. "Daily outreach in a creative and novel way that is in-line with the brand's identity is necessary," notes Stephanie. Make sure shoppers know your social media handles and hashtags so satisfied customers can do some of the work for you by sharing information with their own audience, too.
Remember, a pop-up can end up being a labor of love. As Stephanie points out, "a successful pop up is not always one that capitalizes financially." Temporary stores can require a significant financial investment, and it can be difficult to recoup that in a limited amount of time. But, for a brand without an existing brick-and-mortar business, the chance to interact with customers in person - and the lasting impact a pop-up can have from a marketing and brand awareness perspective - can contribute to positive growth that makes the experience a net gain overall.