Advice for opening and operating a pop-up shop

Marketing and brand

1 June 2020

Just a few years ago, only a handful of retail and marketing experts were familiar with the term 'pop-up shop'. Today, everyone seems to want a slice of the pop-up action, from huge brands to start-up businesses.

It’s a trend that’s become particularly popular and successful with food retailers such as bakeries and patisseries, with high-profile examples like the partnership between retail giant Topshop and cake business Lola's Cupcakes leading the charge.

Commenting on the phenomenon, Helen Gregory from, says: “For a bakery, it’s the chance to test the waters in another location or a way for a start-up cake-maker to discover if they've got what it takes."

What’s more, these pop-up shops are a low-cost marketing tool – a great way to create a buzz around your business and gain more exposure. And for online-only ventures, they also offer the chance to access a new offline customer base without the overheads of running a permanent physical store.

If your business already has a physical presence and you're planning to expand, opening a pop-up shop is a good way to test out new locations and see if they suit your business. But before any of this, you need to plan your pop-up experience carefully.

Get the location right

Finding a suitable location for your pop-up is absolutely vital. If you've been running an online business, you may not have encountered this kind of challenge before, so do your research and take your time.

You need a location in an area with high footfall – preferably on an existing shopping street, where the other retailers and businesses can complement the experience you provide. Pop-up expert Alice Vaughan recommends canvassing your chosen area extensively before you decide to go ahead. "Have a wander around the area, have a look on Twitter and see what other activity there is in the neighbourhood," she says. "Think about the people who will be visiting the area, whether for work, shopping, leisure or other reasons."

Keep the costs down

Remember that a pop-up is supposed to be a relatively low-cost venture, so it's important to keep outgoings in check. Stick to a simple, minimalist layout – your shop doesn't need to look perfect. The pop-up experience is all about introducing people to your business, your brand and the people behind it, so there's no need to kit out the space to a high-spec standard.

Looking for what commercial property experts call 'turn-key space' can help to keep costs down. This means a space that’s ready to move into, with all the necessary wiring, plumbing, fixtures and fittings in place: after all, you don't want an experimental exercise to balloon into a major renovation project.

Think outside the box

Pop-up shops are all about providing an alternative to the traditional retail experience, so don't be afraid to think a bit differently yourself. If you can't find a suitable space on your local high street, consider more unconventional locations like museums, church halls, community spaces, hospitals and university campuses. Setting up in an unexpected spot can capture people's imagination and be highly effective PR.

Once everything is in place, don't forget to promote your pop-up. Hand out flyers, invite local businesses to come down and use your social media accounts to spread the word.

Make sure you’re covered

Depending on the type of pop-up shop, you might need a business licence before you’re allowed to open. Business licences ensure you’re following industry-specific regulations and standards. Read AXA’s guide to business licences to get a better understanding of the types of licences out there and make sure you’ve got the right ones in place.

It’s also important to make sure you have the right insurance cover for your pop-up. Public liability insurance covers you against things like accidental injury or if a member of the public damage their property in your shop. Shopping centres and other venues who host pop-up shops will usually ask what type of insurance cover you have before they let you host your pop-up. 

If you own a shop, pop-up or not, it’s important to make sure you’re properly protected. We’d also like to know if you have you ever used a pop-up store as part of your marketing strategy, or seen a pop-up store you love on the high street? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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