How to create a pop-up shop: 7 expert tips

Want a physical space to sell your design work and host events? Nicola Watson of Offset57 explains how to set one up.

Want to make money from your design work? You could try these places to sell your design work online – but don't discount the idea of a physical store. A pop-up shop is a great way reach the public and test your market but without the long-term financial commitment of a full-time shop.

Running pop-up shop and 'creative space' Offset57 recently was a test of courage for me – and although I don't lay claim to being an expert quite yet, I certainly picked up some tips along the way. I'll share them with you here...

01. Do a deal

Pop-up shop signage

The signage for pop-up shop and creative space Offset57

There are plenty of vacant units available in cities that landlords would rather have filled than sitting empty. Find out who owns/lets them and have a chat. Often they will let you occupy the unit for a limited time rent-free. It certainly won't hurt to ask.

02. Know your costs

Ensure you know all the costs – business rates will still apply, and you will probably be asked to contribute to amenity costs – water, electricity, etc. You will also need to consider insurance too. Depending on your enterprise, you might also be able to register for charity status, allowing further reductions in costs.

03. Seek out volunteers

Pop-up shop volunteers

Fred Deakin giving a recent talk at Offset57

Have a good solid team of volunteers who are willing to assist in all aspects of the venture – and then hire freelancers where needed. People will enthusiastically support projects initially as the excitement builds – you still need them around once you get going!

04. Chat to local businesses

Make friends with the other local businesses nearby – sometimes you can do deals, for instance with cafés or shops that allows for publicity (and keeps the public flowing) between both.

05. Make it eye-catching

Pop-up shop logo design

Keep it stylish, but make sure it's bold, colourful and eye-catching too

Crucially, ensure that the shop is eye-catching, and attracts people. This doesn't mean you have to spend a lot of money – the simplest homemade ideas often work just as well for window displays. Colourful card, hand drawn signage and balloons if need be! Think about how it is set up inside too, with defined areas e.g. the cash point, you also don't want it to be overly cluttered – and even if it is a pop up shop, it still has to be clean and tidy.

06. Use social media

Social media is key in building interested customers. You can reach people quickly and build up momentum fast. Flyers and other traditional marketing techniques are still worth using but don't have the same speed, particularly if your shop is only open for a few days. Additionally, ensure you have someone with good communication skills. It will involve a lot of dealing with the public, obviously, but also potentially press, media, landlords, councils and other businesses.

07. Be nice

Pop-up shop - be nice

Everyone appreciates a pleasant attitude, from partners to customers

Finally, Anthony Burrill's typography adage is simple but true – 'Work Hard and Be Nice To People'. It's not difficult. Saying 'thanks' and name-checking people involved when you can. The public appreciates a pleasant attitude, as do the business people you deal with. Enthusiasm rubs off on others, and you'll find you have a captive network to build on who are willing to help out with the next venture!

Have you seen a cool pop-up shop? Tell us about it in the comments!

Words: Nicola Watson

Nicola Watson initiated the non-profit pop-up shop and creative space Offset57 in Aberdeen, Scotland. Keep up with events at the venue on Twitter at @Offset57.

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