Shops pop-up for Christmas

Henrietta Walsh explores why small businesses should embrace the concept of temporary stores during the festive season

The run-up to Yuletide is presenting an array of opportunities to new and small businesses. Around the country, provisional shops are quite literally popping up in larger retailers, shopping malls and empty premises, to make the most of heightened consumer spending. Temporary retail spaces such as these tend to draw in customers at a faster pace because they produce that sense of necessity and limited timescale, and at such a festive period, this is sure to increase, as shoppers scour the streets for unique ‘must-have’ bargains.

Pop-ups also make commercial sense for small businesses, as they allow them to try out new locations or arrangements, without having to commit to a more costly, permanent outlet. Since the start of the recession, Britain’s high streets have witnessed the unavoidable closure of a number of retail stores, thus resulting in vacant outlets, and landlords are desperate to fill them. This in turn means that with more units standing empty, small businesses are in a stronger position to negotiate cheaper letting rates.

At Startups, we believe the pop-up phenomenon, which extends to restaurants, bars, cinemas and the like, is an excellent opportunity for small businesses. Whether retailers, manufacturers, or service providers, small firms can benefit hugely from opening temporary shops. As well as gaining a certain degree of power over landlords, they can find out how their products are received by the public, without being constrained to a long-term lease.

However, there are also potential opportunities, for businesses with temporary stores that do particularly well, to extend the lease, or even to open the shop permanently. Last Christmas, HMV opened 10 short-lease shops around the country, five of which were then made permanent. How’s that for pop-up success?

Temporary stores come highly recommended by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW). Clive Lewis, head of enterprise at the ICAEW, explains: “In the lead up to Christmas, retailers are looking for new ways to push up sales. Pop-up shops can help with this as they are around for a limited period and create a sense of urgency to buy, particularly as there is a peak in customer demand during the festive season. They also provide a chance for new businesses to test the water and see how their product would sell in a live situation as opposed to selling online.”

With the amount of temporary shops springing up around the country, it’s evident that numerous small businesses have latched onto the idea. We’ve looked at the Christmas calendar and found a few good examples of shops popping-up:

  • The Marmite shop in Selfridges stores in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Trafford. Following on from a successful temporary store in London’s Regent Street last year, the Marmite shop opened its doors in October this year and will remain until Christmas. Rupert Pick, founder of brand venturing partnership Hot Pickle Trading, who created the Marmite pop-up store, says: “Most pop-ups tend to happen in London, but we wanted to take the concept to the regions, in the hope of giving them a breath of fresh air. In fact, the shops in the regions are trading even better than the one in London, which is great.”
  • Artist Ali Miller’s Christmas pop-up shop at framing company John Jones’ gallery in Finsbury Park. Taking place this November and December, the shop sells handmade cards, ceramics and wallpaper. Ali says: “My artwork is all about time and memories and so I thought the whole concept of a pop-up shop was very appropriate for my work. So far the shop has gone really well, and I’m thinking of extending it into January.”
  • Temporary HMV stores in 18 locations around the country, either in populated areas that already have an HMV store, to act as an overspill, or in less populated locations that don’t have a permanent entertainment store. Gennaro Castaldo, head of press and PR at HMV, says: “With pop-up shops you can trial an area and see if you get a good response from the public and the landlord. Christmas is a good time for us to get our offers out there and most of the temporary stores are for a finite time. However, last year five out of the 10 pop-up shops we opened were made permanent, so we’re hoping that some of the 18 this year will do the same.”
  • One-day ‘Craft Fox’ pop-up market in Brixton, December 11. Organiser, Sinead Devlin, who sells handmade jewellery herself, says: “I noticed a lack of good craft markets in London, and so decided to create a one-day event. Pop-ups provide an opportunity for vendors to test the market to see if there’s interest in their products. I’ve been approached by people asking if I’ll organise more markets around London, so I’ll see how this one goes first.”

So go on, give it a go. Unwrap your pop-up potential. Yule be jingling all the way to the bank.


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