I don’t know about you, but it’s not Halloween for me until the Halloween costume guys move into the empty retail space at the mall, hang a couple of spiders the size of Volkswagens off the building, and set up shop for a month. When they open their doors I know I’ve only got 30 shopping days until Halloween.
We see it happen every Halloween and Christmas around here. Stores set up shop, “love bomb” the local newspapers with ads and cover the neighborhoods with flyers. I mean these guys pull out all the stops to let everyone know they are there. They get more traffic at Halloween than zombies get brains, and kids get candy.
Look a little closer, and you’ll see a business opportunity. Have you noticed that these stores that come and go – usually specializing in a single product, theme or niche – and that they’re around more than just during the holidays? Maybe you’ve walked through your local mall and stopped at a “pop-up” as these stores are called, in the form of kiosks selling the latest nail-bed oil, cell phone covers, watches or whatever hot gadgets all the teens are after.
I can’t count the number of temporary bookstores selling a collection of close-out books I’ve dropped money in. Unless these seasonal pop up stores are selling what you’re buying, you may consider them more of a headache than they’re worth. But if you really look at what is going on with this trend, it becomes clear that the transaction is a win-win situation for all concerned.
How It Works
Pop-ups work like any long-term store. The business moves in, stocks its shelves and then opens its doors to the public. The only real difference between a pop-up store and a permanent one is that the pop-up store knows it is only going to be there for a set amount of time and they plan for that— kind of like a summer, or winter or spring romance.
The traditional store, in all honesty, has no idea how long it will be there. They’re thinking long-term, “till death or a negative bank balance doth we part” thing. The traditional store is largely dependent upon its ability to sell a lot of stuff and not see its lease go through the roof when it comes up for renewal.
That’s great news for a booming economy. But when commercial retail spaces are sitting empty in this economy, and more businesses are closing their doors every month, traditional isn’t working so great. Building owners who may have been reluctant to do short-term rentals in the past are now, shall we say, much more open to the idea of short-term rentals. Gone are the days of being bullied into one- or two-year-long lease agreements.
Why It Works
In short, pop-up stores create big time buzz. When people see them, it’s something new and exciting, and they stop in and spend money. The same thing happens with any new store, or even the new kid on the block. Everybody gets all excited and wants to check out the newest, latest and greatest. After a month, they’re bored and sales start to level out, unless you’ve got a pop-up. Pop-up stores give the public a crack at what you are selling, but with more of an urgency to buy, simply because the consumer knows that what you are selling won’t be there in a month or a week.
Pop-up stores are highly effective, not only when it comes to selling holiday-related items, but also for specialty items, trendy products, limited-edition goods and believe it or not, restaurants! These stores provide entrepreneurs with a chance to test their product on the community, without having to make long-term commitments in the form of lengthy leases and agreements. Pop-ups give you a chance to let people see you are a real person with a real company. You get to get your name out there, collect your prospects contact info and then to continue those sales online.
Deep down, we all know that some businesses will only thrive by doing business this way, which is not necessarily a bad thing; it really comes down to knowing your product and your audience. If you are selling Halloween costumes, for example, you will spend 11 months out of the year simply chewing through what you made during the month of October. A Halloween costume retail store would have a difficult time being profitable each month of the year. Christmas specialty stores fare a little better, but only in certain areas.
The Let It Pop
Is a pop-up for you? Think about what you have to offer, and see if a pop-up store would be a better route to take than a traditional store. If you love to make fudge, for example, open a pop-up fudge shop mid-November and close it down January 1st. (We all know that everyone starts their diets then.) If you like to make watermelon boats for backyard picnics, set up shop just during the summer months. You may be amazed by how much you can cash in over such a short amount of time and how much you’ll save on rent and overhead by not having to stay open during the slow times.
Pop-up stores may not be the best route for every type of business. (I mean, who wants to hire a pop-up pool installer, for example?) But stores like this are a sensible approach for many types of businesses. And, in our current economy, they provide a win-win situation both for entrepreneurs and for those trying to lease retail space. So let the popping begin!
If you want to read more on the subject of retail stores, I strongly encourage you to read Why We Buy by Paco Underhill. It is my favorite read on the subject.