The first pop-up shop you do is a HUGE milestone. This post gives you the straight-out facts of what you absolutely MUST KNOW before you have your first pop-up store event!
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PUTTING YOURSELF OUT INTO THE WORLD …
IS SOOO SCARY
You have these goodies you make. Sometimes they’re for you and your family, while other times you make them for gifts. Recently, you’ve been wondering if you could sell them and make a little money on the side.
Maybe, you’re starting a business but aren’t yet big enough to sell to retailers or to set-up your own shop. These things take time, right!
So as part of your growth strategy, you’ve decided to participate in a few events for both income and marketing exposure. Whether it be a craft fair, holiday shopping event, or a village sidewalk sale; they’re ALL SCARY!!! And very overwhelming for the first-timer!
My first event was a local village sidewalk sale. It went better than expected! BUT there are definitely a LOT of lessons I took away and many things I’ll do differently the next time! Here’s a summary that I hope will help you as you overcome your fears and put yourself and your goodies out into the world!
pop-up shop PRODUCTS: What to sell!
SELL WHAT THE CUSTOMERS ARE LOOKING TO BUY!
Research who your customer will be and what they’re coming to find at the event. Use that to guide your product assortment (instead of your heart).
This seems like a pretty basic and possibly obvious point, right?? Maybe not! After all, we’re talking about goodies that you put your heart and soul into making. You want to showcase your best work. You want to sell what fills your heart with joy to make!
The problem is … the customers might not care! (OUCH!!)
If you’re selling at a craft fair, have your best goodies ready!
If you’re selling at a sidewalk sale where ALL of the retailers are discounting off-season merchandise, then sell for the BARGAIN SHOPPER!
For a holiday sales fair, bring holiday and gift-giving goodies!
SAMPLE WHAT THE CUSTOMERS AREN’T LOOKING TO BUY!
Create a set of easy-to-store samples of the items that aren’t going to be worth showing at this event!
It makes sense, even if it hurts, that you focus on creating an assortment that matches your potential customers’ wants. That doesn’t mean, however, that you have to forget your favorite items that don’t fit in this event.
For the items that aren’t right for this event, have samples ready on hand! That way, you can show what brings you bliss and possibly take some orders for orders. Even if it makes no sense to create, schlep, and display an assortment that most likely won’t sell; it can’t hurt to have one on hand.
If the sample item is BIG (e.g., blanket) or DELICATE (e.g., a painting) then have a smaller version or a set of photographs ready just for marketing purposes!
BE READY TO TAKE ORDERS at your pop-up shop
Have a system ready to take orders, accept deposits, and make deliveries (or shipments) in case one of your samples creates a sale or you run out of stock.
The reason to bring samples and photographs of your work that isn’t “right” for this one event is to create conversation. One (or hopefully more) of those conversations may just lead to interest from an unsuspecting buyer. JUMP ON IT! Don’t delay. Have an order, deposit, and invoice system ready to capitalize on the immediate interest. Don’t let them walk away and find something else to buy.
Also, as this is your first event, you will probably be way OFF on the number of goodies that you have to sell. Just in case you sell out, you need to have a way to take orders. If they walk away, chances are that they’ll forget about you and your work.
Have More Buying Venues Available for Future Sales
Have your online store or list of future sales events ready to promote BEFORE this event.
I’ll be honest, I meant to have my online store up and running before my first pop-up shop but I simply ran out of time. Don’t let that happen to you! You’ll lose a HUGE sales opportunity!
Be ready to say, “Yes, you can continue to shop my incredible selection of handmade goodies online! Let me get your email address so I can send you the link. Also, take a few of my business cards for you and your friends. The store URL is listed there as well.”
No plans on the horizon for an online shop? Okie-Dokie, no worries! You absolutely — AT A MINIMUM — must have a future plan for contacting these people who clearly LOVE your work. This transitions to the next MUST KNOW tip.
It’s the piece that grows your business!
Be Ready to Collect Email Addresses … AND a Back-Up Method
To grow a business WITHOUT a retail or public location (actually, even if you have these things) you MUST build an email list. This is NOT OPTIONAL!
That means that you have to have an email marketing system (there are both free and paid options) in order to comply with the legal requirements of emailing folks. In short, that means opt-in tools and unsubscribe options for the subscribers.
Have a backup plan ready too just in case you can’t talk to everyone or the WIFI is spotty (more on this below). Even if it’s just a box with a slit in the top or slips of paper you collect. Have some way to collect email addresses and then, when you have time and are in WIFI world, you can manually enter the folks’ information and get all of the legal necessities out of the way.
Get Your pop-up shop in the Best Location Possible
Research the location of the event and make a formal request for the location you feel is optimal to best reach your target buyers.
As a newbie, this honestly might not be possible. BUT it can’t hurt to try.
Find out where you believe the best traffic flow will be for your prime buyers. Often this is based on the facility layout or the existing brick-and-mortar retail establishments. The logic you’ll use is purely your’s. Maybe you WANT to be near your competition since that means more buyers will see your area as a preferred destination.
Conversely, you might want to be away from your direct competition and next to a complimentary vendor who isn’t in your niche but has the same kind of buyer.
Whatever your personal logic, think in advance and make a request. Also, once the event is in full swing, try to walk the market to see where you want to go next year. Repeat vendors have a better chance of having their location requests accepted by the organizers. So if this year you’re in the back corner where crickets are the only chirping you hear, maybe next year you’ll move a little closer to your optimal location.
Practice Your pop-up shop Product Display AND Have Alternate Layouts
Take the time (yes, I know you’re busy but this is important) to do a mock set-up using the same space and fixtures you’ll have available during the event.
Merchandising 101 teaches retailers to use all of the space available, both horizontal and vertical. The items at eye level are prime YET all of the space is money waiting to be made.
Be sure to take as much time making your temporary shop reflect your work as much as your work does. You are creating a setting that encourages the stream of customers to stop and pause at your booth. To look around, even if they aren’t interested in your work at first, and take in everything they see. THEN you get a chance to make them your buyer.
I used extremely inexpensive tablecloths and they looked great and washed easily after the event.
If your booth looks like trash then they’ll just keep on walking.
It can get tricky, however, as what you expect isn’t always what you get. The organizers may move you to a new location, the tables you ordered might not bet the right size, and the wall you thought you had to use turns out to be filthy dirty.
Have an alternate display option available just in case. Then, you can still get set up and make the most of the opportunity to meet potential buyers (instead of crying that your beautiful display has to sit in the back of your minivan).
If you are going to be outside, either rent a tent or bring one. I rented one for my first event but will buy one for the next year. It’s almost the same price and this way I can prepare my displays exactly for my tent. That makes merchandising, set-up and take down MUCH better. I’m going to get this one (see below).
If you want some EXCELLENT display ideas, just check Pinterest. Here’s one post from GirlInTheGarage.com that I absolutely LOVE!
business strategy 101: Know Your MISSION STATEMENT AND PRIMARY OBJECTIVE for your pop-up shop
Before going out into the public, you MUST know and practice sharing your mission statement. In addition, you absolutely MUST focus on your primary objective for the event and not get moving off on a tangent.
A mission statement is a very brief statement that describes what, how, and why you’re doing what you’re doing. There are a TON of books on this and courses. In short, think of these questions and go from there.
- What value are you providing for your target market?
- What problem are you solving for your potential customer?
- What service or resource do you offer that will make your customer’s life better?
Notice NONE of them are about what YOU get out of your business? It’s not about YOU! EVERYTHING is about the person you’re hoping will LOVE and APPRECIATE your goods and services.
Next, you have to practice saying this in a comfortable (no jargon) way in about 17 seconds, TOPS!!
Moving on … Making a net profit, as a first-time pop-up shop entrepreneur, may not be your main goal. You might have goals that include: overcoming your fear of selling, gathering a list of email addresses, creating a buzz about your new business, or meeting other complimentary (and possibly competitive) vendors, just to name a few.
The point is that you have a goal and your mission is to achieve that goal. Challenging it may be as the adrenaline you feel might send you in another direction. Stay focused. Stay on course!
Each pop-up shop may have a new goal. That’s okay. As your business grows, your goals will evolve. That’s good too!
Make Yourself Standout Clearly as the Person in Charge
Dress in a way that supports your product assortment AND clearly marks you as the person in charge of the shop.
A name tag might be slight overkill (or not, you decide) but a shirt with your shop name or website URL makes sense. On the back, you can even add your position for fun!
How about Founder, Chief Maker, Owner, Management, or even The Boss if you’re feeling playful. Just in some way, make sure the people coming through your space KNOW clearly and without confusion that YOU are the person they should speak with as they look around your pop-up shop.
A simple and practical option is to purchase an inexpensive apron and have your name (or business name) embroidered on the front. That way, it’s clear that you’re the person to ask questions and also, you have pockets!
I hand embroidered my company name on an apron as shown in the Instagram photo below.
I’ll also add here, as a side note that I hope doesn’t need its own point … talk to EVERYONE! Greet each person or group, let them know you are available to ask questions or offer help, and then allow them to take in what you have on display. Don’t hover, don’t pester, do greet, and do support.
NOT to be Ignored
Prepare Yourself Physically for the Marathon Hours or Standing
Wear good footwear and comfortable clothing first and foremost. You’re going to be standing and talking for a VERY LONG stretch of time and it will take it’s toll physically.
If you normally stand for long stretches of time and talk for hours on end, this might not be an issue. HOWEVER, if this isn’t part of your normal like — and YES, even if you’re in great physical shape — be prepared for sore joints, swollen ankles, and overall exhaustion.
Try not to schedule anything for the evening of your event so you can go home and rest.
If this is a multi-day pop-up shop event, keep your schedule light for the following week so your body can heal. I can’t stress this enough. My body was SOOO TIRED and weak after over three days of standing. It was completely unexpected as I work out regularly but I don’t STAND for 12-hours a day, three days in a row.
Understand what this may cost you physically and hire help if you aren’t up for the task. It doesn’t mean that you can’t do the event. You just have to make appropriate arrangments to make sure you don’t cause yourself physical harm.
Choose your footwear carefully and, if possible, consider a massaging insole that you can slip in for a little relief:
Get the Necessities Worked Out to Support Your Well-Being DURING the pop-up shop
Arrange in advance regular interval breaks to give you the opportunity to use the restroom, eat something, and sit-down for a few minutes.
This may mean that you have to hire (or beg) someone for assistance in your pop-up shop. Sometimes, the organizers have people to support you during bathroom breaks but I wouldn’t rely on it!
You also need to keep sipping a healthy beverage throughout the day to stay hydrated. Not too much so you don’t have to go to the bathroom too much, but keep sipping all day long.
Don’t Learn the Hard Way!
Prepare for how you’re going to get your booth set-up and taken down each day.
Have a checklist AND a helper.
Parking probably won’t be available right at your space so you’ll need someone to help you bring in your goodies and fixtures for your pop-up shop. One of you will need to stay with your merchandise while the other unloads (morning) and packs up (evening).
Again, even if you’re doing this alone, as a first-timer you’ll definitely need some help. It doesn’t make you any less of a person.
If you absolutely have to do this alone (it happens to all of us) then invest in a dolly cart and practice loading all of your display and product on it to make sure you can handle it alone.
Have Both Cash and Credit/Debit Card Payment Options ready at your pop-up shop.
Unless the event states otherwise, don’t assume people do or don’t use cash. In most situations, people are mixed on how they make payments.
There are lots of inexpensive options, many without longterm contracts, that provide you with the ability to accept credit/debit cards. Get set up with one of these and have it working before you hit the event.
I use Square and have been very happy with it!
Hold your cash and payment equipment right on your person. That means, get a belt bag (aka, fanny pack) to hold all of it. I used my Lululemon belt bag but they’re extremely hard to find in a store or online. It did work great though! I’ve seen the Herschel Supply Co. one in a variety of colors and it’s a lot easier to find.
Don’t get change if you don’t want to cash it out. You can work out the prices to already include the change in whole dollar amounts. Or simply round, in the buyers favor, to the nearest quarter, dime, or nickel in order to at least reduce the amount of change you’re hauling around all day.
One final note that could have also been included in the marketing section … Make prices clear EVERYWHERE in your pop-up shop! Signage if you have pricing groups or individually labeled items are necessary. I know, some people think that if prices aren’t on the goodies then the people will have to come up and speak with them. A conversation starter, right?!
Wrong! A LOT of people simply will walk away as opposed to speaking with you! Yes, they might NOT want to talk to you. OUCH, again but it’s true. It’s also not personal (unless they do know you personally). There are just a lot of people with anxiety when it comes to speaking with strangers or “salespeople” and, for those people, just walking away is a better option than asking for a price.
Be Ready for the Weather!
Prepare yourself and your pop-up shop for whatever kind of weather is forecasted during your event, and then bring a backup for when the forecast is wrong!
Cold, heat, humidity, rain, snow, and even severe storms are all possible depending on where your event is taking place. Prepare for yourself and for your customer.
Have water bottles available for hot and humid days to hand out to your customers. Have tarps ready on all days as storms can spring up out of almost nowhere in the warmer months when many outdoor street festivals take place.
Get sides for your tent, ONLY if it makes sense. They do block customers’ view of your merchandise so only get them if you’ll need protection from the elements.
Get sides for your tent, ONLY if it makes sense. They do block customers’ view of your merchandise so only get them if you’ll need protection from the elements. For my first pop-up store, I paid for three sides for my tent. When I got to my spot, I could only use one of the sides due to the sidewalk and local ordinances. Lesson learned!
Understand the limitations of your technology.
Check on the access to WIFI so you know if you need to make alternative arrangements to accept payments via Bluetooth. Also, have batter backup for your devices!
I completely recommend getting a portable charger for your phone and iPad. You want to be able to sign people up for your email list, accept payments via Bluetooth, show gallery photos of your work, and give tours of your website. You might also want to have some music going if that’s allowed. All of this means you’ll need to be on your device all day potentially. Running out of gas is NOT an option!
If WIFI is unavailable then you will want to be able to hook up to a hotspot to help your internet connection. Make sure to work all of this out BEFORE you get to the event. All your hard work making an inventory to sell means nothing if you have no way to accept payments or record email addresses!
Check on local ordinances
Yes, weird right but ask the ordinances if there are any requirements by the location for you to know about before your first pop-up shop.
I found out that sandbags are required for the tent poles. Makes sense but I didn’t think of it until another vendor told me.
Also, a fire extinguisher is required where I had my first pop-up shop as well. Fortunately, I wasn’t discovered as I didn’t have one. I was told that vendors had been shut down in the past for NOT having one available to them. Who would EVER think to bring a fire extinguisher to an outdoor sidewalk sale?? (Clearly, not me!)
Write a Follow-Up List after your pop-up shop
Have a place ready, either on your phone or a paper list, to jot down notes for your next pop-up store event.
Trust me, you WON’T remember them if you don’t write them down as they enter your mind. Keep making notes constantly!
Then, after the pop-up shop event, write a summarized list (or blog post, like this one), with your key takeaways from the event. Products, marketing, self-care, and logistics are all vital to understand for a successful event. Learn from each opportunity and get better the next time!
Have more questions? Email me! I’d love to help you with your first pop-up shop.