How to Setup a Christmas Pop-Up Shop

I’ve received a huge amount of requests for information on pop-ups over the past few weeks so I said I’d do a blog post.

Over the past 5 years, we’ve setup a lot of pop-up shops – about 12 in total.  Our shops have ranged from shopping centre units to Christmas fairs to difficult to access shop units.

If you’re thinking of opening a Christmas pop-up shop for 2014, here are some pointers:

1. Finding a premises

It’s a very difficult task to find a suitable premises for your pop-up.  It needs to be the right size, location, with the right footfall, etc.  The challenge is to find where you’re customers are going to be and then be conveniently located.

  • Auctioneers / Real estate agents generally are a waste of time – avoid. 
    Not enough commission for them.
  • Try contact the landlord directly and sell it to them.
    Explain your background, explain advantages, explain how you’ll market, etc.
    When renting a unit last year, it had previously been a milkshake bar, we promised to clean it up (the smell was pretty bad before we started!) and we left it in great condition. A few weeks after Christmas the unit which had been vacant for a year had become a t-shirt shop.
    Every unit we have taken has been rented pretty much immediately after Christmas.  People see the shop again, see how to market it – the easiest unit for a landlord to rent is a busy unit.
    Sell them on the advantages!

2. Factor in Marketing Costs

One of the big mistakes we made in our first year was not factoring time, effort and money for cash the shop.  We spend quite a bit of time and money marketing the website but shops require just as much attention.  It’s very difficult to get a premium unit so you typically need a mechanism to tell people where you are.

For a short-term pop-up you can’t wait for word of mouth – you need to announce you’re there.  We have had an upstairs unit just off a main shopping street.  For the entire month of December, apart from the staff in the shop we also have had a guy holding a sign on the main street and another one outside the door.  This is just part of the cost of doing business.

We’ve hired bands to play out windows, invited radio stations to play in the shops, developed a social media wall, etc.  Anything we can do to get the word out.  It takes time, effort and some cash but it really pays off.


3. Unique Products

Customers need a reason to come to a pop-up.  You need a product not available on the high street or your product needs to be less expensive.  We never recommend a race to the bottom on price so make sure to choose your stock carefully.  We design and create all our own Christmas Jumpers.  They’re all 3D and we always provide lights.  People come to us year after year for our jumpers.

While you don’t need to necessarily create your own product, find something unique or different that isn’t everywhere you look.


4. Plan it as a Multi-Year Project

In our first year, we made the mistake of selling out early.  Mistake?  The problem is if you run out of stock early you’ve missed an opportunity to sell on some of the biggest shopping days of the year.  Customers wont come to a semi-empty shop and if you’ve a few items left, it becomes difficult to sell.  Would you go into a bare shop?

You could always have a sale post Christmas where people don’t mind if you’ve only a few bits left.  We haven’t done sales in our pop-ups.  Our jumpers are non-perishable and they’re already at a great price.  We now plan to carry some stock as we like trading all the way up to Christmas.  There are some storage fees involved and we’d rather not have lots and lots of stock but we don’t want to be completely empty.

If you plan it as a multi-year project you might be a little tight on cashflow for year 1 but you’ll build a much more sustainable business and people will come looking for you year after year.

5. Get e-mail addresses

I’m sorry to say we consistently make this mistake.  If you read any blog on selling, they talk about the value of e-mail addresses.  We have quite a big mailing list where we e-mail all our online customers over the period.  We’ve tried to implement something in shops to get e-mail addresses so we can let people know where and when we’re opening.  It’s never worked out – largely because the guys in the shop have been too busy.

Not having a mailing list for the shops makes marketing more difficult and expensive every year.  We use facebook quite a bit but e-mail addresses are much more effective.  Next time – we’ll be collecting e-mail addresses.

If you have any comments, feedback, queries or are interested in stocking some Christmas Jumpers – drop us a note to




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