Small business guide: How to set up a pop-up retail store

In this 7-minute read:

  • Why set up a pop-up store
  • How to set up a pop-up store
  • Prepare, set up the space, and market your store

Pop-up shops are a great way for online retailers to test the waters of running a physical store. Typically, a pop-up shop is a store that opens temporarily to help create brand awareness for a store in a new area or help business owners decide whether or not they want to dive fully into the brick-and-mortar world. 

While many pop-up shops run seasonally, you can test out a new pop-up store during any time of the year. In this article, we’ll guide you through some of the things you need to know before getting started. 

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Why set up a pop-up shop for your retail business?

Having an online-only store can be a challenge for business owners because it doesn’t allow the on-street marketing or foot traffic that a brick-and-mortar business brings. A pop-up store can increase brand awareness and customer traffic just by being on the ground where people are frequently traveling. 

A pop-up shop also provides shop owners the opportunity to decide whether or not a physical store is something they want to try long-term. Maybe you’ve been considering opening up a physical location for your store for a little while now, but you’re not quite ready to go all in. Try opening a pop-up shop for a month or two to see if it’s something you could sustain long-term. 

Even if you’re not looking to run a store year-round, seasonal pop-up shops are very common and could help give your store more business during busy shopping times (like Thanksgiving and Christmas). 

How to set up your pop-up store

Wanna test out a pop-up store for your retail business? Follow the rest of this guide to make sure you have everything you need to get started. 

Prepare to open a physical store

There’s a lot of preparation that goes into starting a physical business, even if you already have the online part going well. You have to find a space that will allow you to fill it temporarily. You also need to make sure you have people to manage the store and ways to display your inventory. 

Find a space

As you find a space for your pop-up store, you’ll want to think about where it is located. Not all locations are equal when it comes to the consumer shopping experience. A store in or near a shopping mall is generally going to perform better than a store in a medical park. Consider your location and audience as you look for a building. 

Get permits, licensing

As you look for a space, also determine what kind of licensing and permits you need to run a physical store. Every city has specific zoning for commercial properties. Make sure your building is in a place that allows retail businesses and get any permits that your city requires to set up a physical store. 

Set up utilities

Consider any utilities that you may need: electricity, water, garbage, internet. Get those set up well before you open up shop—especially electricity and internet so you can take transactions with ease. 

Determine how you will use the space

As you are looking for a space or when you find your space, determine how that space will be used. How will you layout your store? Think about where your inventory will go, where the cashier/checkout will be, if you’ll have public restrooms available, and if there will be space for an employee break room. 

If you have a clothing store, will you provide a dressing room? Think about all of the different spaces you will need and how those will fit into the building you find. 

Create materials for your brand

A physical store requires physical branding. You can’t just rely on your internet presence to get traffic into your store. You need to create and set up signs outside the store and throughout the building to help establish your physical brand. 

Rent, make, or buy fixtures you may need

You’re going to need fixtures to place your inventory on: shelves, tables, racks. You might even want furniture for lounge areas or for customers to use as they try on clothes or shoes. Determine what you’ll need to set up your store and how they will fit into the space you found. 

Hire staff

If you’re not going to be the only one manning the store, then you’ll need to hire staff. Hold interviews and start advertising open job positions well before the store opens. Your staff can help you get the store set up, and you’ll want to get them properly trained before setting them loose on running your store. 

Determine payment options 

How are you going to accept payments? With an online-only store, your customers pay online as they checkout on your website or Amazon. But at a physical store they’ll expect someone to ring them up and take their payments. So you’ll need to have some kind of point-of-sale (POS) system in place to help you manage payments and process transactions. 

You may even have a current POS like Square or Stripe that provides card readers and tablets to help you take transactions in person. Check with your POS provider to see what options you have available. 

In this post-COVID-19 era, also consider using cashless and contact-free payment options whenever possible. 

Check out this article: Best practices for cash, cashless, chip, and contactless payments during COVID-19

Set store policies 

Before you open up shop, set your store policies. Determine your store hours, what kind of parking availability you’ll have, how many people can be inside at one time. Consider all policies and rules that you’ll need to establish with your employees and customers before you open. 

Set up the store

Now it’s time to set up the space. You’ve already planned your layout, so now you can put that into action. Gather your inventory and furniture items and start getting your store set up. Consider using a local interior designer who is experienced with commercial layouts if design isn’t your area of expertise. 

Here are a few other things to add to your checklist of setting up your store:

  • Test your technology. Make sure your POS systems, computers, WiFi, and any other technology are working properly before you open up shop
  • Keep a tool kit on hand. Ideally, you’ll have everything in place to simply set up in your store. But it’s a good idea to be prepared with tools, batteries, tape, pens, paper, glue, or other items that could come in handy
  • Set up your signs to draw in customers 
  • Make sure your contact information is readily available for customers, whether that’s a business card, signage, or other visual to invite them to stay in contact
  • Walk through the store as a customer, or invite friends in to test out the shopping experience

Market your new store

Marketing your store should really be started before you open and should continue throughout the duration of your store’s existence. Before you get started, make sure that people know you are opening up a physical store. Advertise this on your website and social media accounts.

Set up a Google My Business listing so people can easily find your store and business information on Google. 

Offer promotions to draw people in as you open up. Consider a soft grand opening to welcome the community to your new store. 

As you get customers, remind them that you value their online feedback. This will help bring in more customers over time (should you stay open or pop-up in another location later on). If you need help managing reviews, consider using reputation management software. Womply’s solution can help you easily read and reply to all your online reviews in one place with one login. Learn more, plus get free reputation monitoring and customer insights when you sign up for Womply Free!


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