hello DODO's Top 10 Tips for Running a Pop Up Shop!
Hello! I initially began writing this blogpost back in March 2020 thinking it would be a good thing to do in the run up to our Summer 2020 pop up shop. Well! That pop up didn't actually happen (no prizes for guessing why!) so I thought I'd wait until we had completed our 2021 pop up instead (juuuuuuust incase!)
We first popped up at Colonnade House - Worthing's Creative Hub - back in 2017 for one week. It was the first time we'd ever done a solo pop up shop and it was both a huge confidence boost and a steep learning curve! We loved it though and returned that same year for another week for 'hello DODO Winterland'. The following summer in 2018 we went full out and popped up for three whole weeks which was amazing but very tiring on top of keeping our online shops running! This time we went for what we think is the sweet spot of two weeks....still hard work but gives lots of people the chance to come and visit. Here's our Top Ten Tips for running a pop up shop for anyone who's thinking of going for it...some of these tips were pre-covid times (remember those?) so I'll add what adjustments we made this time around.
We definitely left it later than we usually would this time around as we weren't 100% sure it would go ahead. Usually if a pop up was in July/August though we'd start mentioning it in the early part of the year, not loads but every now and then bringing it up - sharing photos from our previous pop ups, just a gentle reminder to people who visited us before but also to introduce new people in our audience to this cool thing that we do! In the few months leading up to the pop up we begin to share more and more, giving sneak peeks of all the exciting new things we have planned for it and sharing the story of us making it happen.
If like us you're planning a pop up in someone else's space, be it council run or an empty shop - it's important that you spend the time to crunch the figures to work out roughly what you'd need/like to make money wise to make the project worthwhile. What's the fee for renting the space? Are there any unexpected costs such as needing to buy a licence to play music or do you need your own Public Liability Insurance? (We get ours annually through A-N membership) What budget do you need for kitting out the space? Rails? Props? Window decals? Flyers? Perhaps some things you might be able to borrow? Our main outlay for our initial pop up was colourful clothes rails, a million hangers (in our brand colours) and MOST importantly, a huge cardboard cut out of our DODO mascot! We knew that these would all be things we used again though so they weren't a one time investment. This time around we had all of those things already and our main outlay (other than stock) was having a bunch of our professional product photos blown up big. Again, these are something that we will use again in the future. If the costs all seems like a lot of money could you collaborate with one or maybe more artists/designers to make the project more affordable? (and possibly more fun!)
If possible we'd definitely recommend visiting the space you're going to be popping up in more than once - or if that's not possible, at least getting a floor plan with measurements and photos of the space. We're lucky that Colonnade House is local to us and specialises in being a space for local artists and designers to show their work. We've seen the space being used for fully kitted out pop ups, minimal art exhibitions, a workshop space, a cinema....all sorts! If you're not familiar with your space here's some points to possibly consider: Is there a hanging system for the walls or can you bang in nails? Where do customers enter and exit? Is there a clear route people walk around the space, taking in to account wheelchairs and buggies? What are the windows like and how best can they be used to attract passers by? What's the lighting like in the space? Is any furniture supplied or is it completely blank? Are you able to paint the space? Is there wifi for card machines and using social media? How can you make the space something people want to share? In our first pop up our giant DODO cardboard cut out was part of a sort of DIY photobooth to encourage people to share our event on social media. This time around for us things were QUITE different as a couple of months before our pop up a van had driven through the main window of Colonnade House. This meant that the main window was completely blocked off and the access to the main gallery space was a little trickier (thank goodness they have two doors though!). This was a good exercise in being flexible and open minded for us, we flipped the entire room layout so that when people entered the space felt normal and spacious and most important SHOPPABLE and it actually worked really well.
Yep, we're on Tip Four and we still haven't opened yet! It seems obvious but as with any event you have to share the sh*t out of it. If you want any local newspapers or magazines to feature your event they'll have print deadlines so contact them early and supply a concise press release that gives them all the info they need plus a folder of hi-res images. Take flyers to other local businesses, networking events, see if local coffee shops or bars will put up posters for you (we did much less of this this time around but picked some really good places to have flyers). And then of course online promotion! Share it on instagram, on stories, create a facebook event and invite the entire World, share it to relevant facebook groups (when allowed), talk about it on twitter using local hashtags, tell your mailing list ALL about it. If you're starting to feel uncomfortable and like you're boring people I can guarantee you're still not talking about it enough!! And remember, not everyone who follows you sees all your posts. Share what you're doing, where you're flyering, WHY this pop up is totally unmissable and what exclusive stuff people will find if they visit you.
If you're reading this blogpost then I assume you're some sort of designer/maker/artist/indie business and so a pop up shop for you can be personal and tell your story. You're not there to compete with High Street stores, you're there to connect with people! For us, we design and screenprint all of our clothing ourselves from our tiny garden print studio in Worthing...so when we pop up in Worthing we can talk to customers about that. Other than talking to customers though, is there a way to shout about who you are and why you do what you do in the space? On the window? In an installation? A video? Could you have some of your creative tools there or even be able to create things in the space itself? This is hello DODO's 10th year so we created a bio that told our story and had that professionally printed big on the wall. Had we had more time and budget we'd have made a brand video that we'd have had playing in the space as not everyone spends the time to read a bio and it's great for people to be able to actually see our making process. Something for next time!
Woohoo your pop up is finally open! HIGH FIVE. Our pop ups always open on a Tuesday (after a full day of setting up the day before) which is not usually a super busy day on the high street but we also make sure it's in the school summer holidays. Could your first customers get a freebie or some kind of perk for being first in line? Are you having a launch party? We didn't do one this time around (eurgh...covid!!) but at our launch parties in the past we've done goodie bags for the first customers to buy something and had drinks and snacks from local indie businesses. We call them a launch party rather than a private view...as they're not very private! They're a good opportunity to invite local press, potential clients or stockists etc though...and just all your friends and family!
Even if your pop up is in prime position, you can't just rely solely on footfall, you need to keep shouting from the rooftops that you're there and you're only temporary so if people snooze they'll lose! Keep updating your facebook event with any interesting pop up news and maybe give a little tour on instagram stories. Something we've done before which was a LOT of fun was we designed some "DODO Dollars" (hello DODO £1 off vouchers) which we left in places around town (cinemas, cafes, bars, the museum, library etc). We'd show on Instagram stories a clue as to where we'd left them and so it was fun game for locals to go off and find them. Are there any local bloggers/influencers/magazines/newspapers you could reach out to?
Another way to create some fun hype and get people through the door is to either hold workshops or events within your pop up. In the past we've done badge making workshops as our pop up is popular with kids in the school holidays and the workshop also allows their parents to possibly do a bit of shopping whilst their kids are occupied. Is there a relevant workshop you could run that's easy to do and would appeal to your market? Or possibly a new product launch within the timeframe of the pop up? Or some live music? A book signing? A film screening? A talk? A fashion show? Having extra things to talk to your audience about is great!
We've already mentioned but having exclusives at your pop up is a fantastic way of getting people excited...yourself included! A pop up is a great way of launching new designs, new styles, new colours etc and seeing how people react to them. Keep them exclusive to the pop up whilst you're open and it'll make it all the more exciting for visitors. In our Summer 2018 pop up we released the "Rainbow Rail" - an entire rail of sweatshirts in every colour, including many that we didn't usually stock. For our pop up this time round we had LOTS of new exclusive pieces such as an entire rail of tie dye pieces ("The DODO Dyed!"), lots of samples and special colour ways, enamel mugs, postcards and more! We also launched our handprinted vintage sister label 'Long Live The DODO' at the pop up so there were tonnes of things that weren't available anywhere else.