Shopping, the Pop-Up Way

Pop-Up Shops are an interesting thing. It could even be confusing for consumers. They might happen upon a pop-up and wonder why an art museum is suddenly selling denim jackets. Or walk by a store in the mall with a store front sign for painting but have home décor products spilling out from its open doors. People can be walking their normal route home and stroll by a truck that hadn’t been there before selling houseplants.

Flash retailing, or temporary retailing, started in L.A. and has grown quickly to be trending around the world. I stumbled upon the idea while researching how to get my brand and products more visibility. This kind of event isn’t for everyone, but it can be totally worth it. Think consumer marketing research. It’s one big, or not-so-big, testing site. As an online retailer, it is difficult to understand what potential customers think of my website and my products. I may be completely in love with a clock, but I really don’t know what buyers think of it. And it’s not about me – it’s about them. (This is a true story. I’m head-over-heels about a clock that has had zero movement.) So, I jumped at the idea of coming face-to-face with customers.

This option of retailing also provides minimal financial risk.  The thought of engaging in a lease or a long-term agreement can be worrisome, especially if you don’t know too much about the market in the area you want to serve.  Pop-Up shops give the ability to test the waters in multiple locations.  In these testing grounds, an online retailer can see if they actually have something good and make changes as it responds to their target customer.

I’m bursting with happiness as I say this: I had the warmest welcome from everyone who happened by my Pop-Up. I’m not even kidding. I had the doors open and people walking by didn’t think I could hear them, so I go the honest truth. 99% of people I overheard were saying the nicest things.  I loved watching and interacting with folks, and if I had a dollar for every woman who eyed as many products as she could while being gently pulled away by their partner, I could afford the store-front of my dreams!

I also need to be honest and admit that the shop was the hardest thing I have ever done, besides giving birth to my three amazing boys, that is. With the help of the BEST people, everything went up in about 5 hours. And after three days of selling, with the help of the BEST people, it all came down in about two hours. I normally keep my products in their boxes for easy shipping, but it was not at all logical to sell boxed products. Putting things back where they went was a nightmare and we pretty much gave up on that idea right away, with a few exceptions. I still have to finish boxing things back up, two weeks later, to get back to my online-retailing life. 

But I’m not deterred from doing another Pop-Up – it will just be different. I’ll make sure I have more time to set up, more time to sell, and have a space to hold all those boxes so we can more readily put products back in the right box. The location was great, a cute little shop in an outdoor mall. Their business was open and active while I took over the front of their store. Next time, I would take over an empty store front instead of sharing. Nothing is wrong with sharing, but our customer base was so different that it was confusing for existing customers.

If you’re wondering how to I came by the location: I just asked. I got on a small business Facebook group for my area and asked. We got a contract in place and two weeks later, it was happening! One thing I learned was that communicating with the store owner is key. Over communicate! I will do much more of that next time.

All in all, I was blessed to have the opportunity to put on my own Pop-Up Shop. Blessed with supportive friends to helped me make it happen. Words can't express the gratitude I feel towards those who stayed up late and woke up early, who lifted, packed and hauled all of my products around, who tended my children, and who worked as nearly as hard as my sweet husband.

Speaking of whom, Pete is the best thing that has happened to me. He is one in a million. A Jack-of-all-Trades, a Fixer, a Cheerleader, and a Trusting Husband who is crazy enough to invest in my dreams.

Thank you, Pete.

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