Pop-Up Shops and Markets: Tips and Lessons From 6 Designers


By now you probably know that pop-up shops and markets can be great for your business. Depending on your goals, strategy and execution they can help build brand awareness, be a form of market research and sell product. No matter what you are trying to do, participating in one will provide learnings, but nonetheless, you'll still want to be smart about your efforts. We asked six designers to share their best advice and lessons learned after participating in a pop-up shop or market. While location, marketing and partnerships were some of the key themes, read what they had to say:

Jackie Hopson, Bodybinds

Start a calendar at least 4-6 weeks out to plot out inventory and print collateral needs (signage, postcards, business cards, catalogs, lookbooks, stamps, etc...). To avoid rush printing fees, artwork should be sent 2 weeks prior. Additionally, people are impressed with an iPad slideshow of lookbooks/catalogs. Have a suitcase or bag pre-packed with all stand/display needs and hangers stamped with your logo is always impressive! Also, location is important. Don't sacrifice a prime location for some bucks. You should also have a solid marketing plan in place: 3-4 weeks out, 2 weeks, 1-4 prior.

Kalen Kaminski, Upstate

Overall, I love the pop-up experience. As a designer I spend over 70% of my day in my studio so it can become pretty isolating at times. It's so nice to meet Upstate lovers face to face and really discuss my product with them and it's story. I noticed that items that don't have to be tried on or are an easy fit sell the best. People kind of want an in and out experience and did not want to try on slinky long gowns...Especially in this frigid weather. My scarves and kimonos sold best. I also found that people respond really well to a "bargain bin" something about crouching down and digging for a treasure even if it's the same price as items hanging makes the customer feel special!

I think location is the most important part of a good pop-up. I did an evening in West Chelsea that was a total flop and one right off of 6th avenue (NY Pop-Up Flea) that had great foot traffic all weekend.

Marketing is so important. I had some pop-ups posted in Racked and Time Out and I didn't see many people from that. I pushed my events a lot on my newsletter, blog, emails to friends and Instagram. I found that personally reaching out to my customers, urging them to come and passing it to friends was valuable.

Emma Bowen, Najla

My recent holiday pop-up experience was a wonderful one. It was Najla's first offline appearance, so the benefit of getting out of the (sometimes isolating!) office and studio, and networking with fellow designers and entrepreneurs, was well worth time and effort. The cold December weekend did not entice people to undress and shop for lingerie, particularly when merchandised with other beautiful gifts that didn't need to be tried on (and were perhaps easier, four-days-'til-Christmas, last-minute buys!). Regardless, the face-to-face time with customers offered a casual market research opportunity - the type of experience that, for a direct-to-consumer, online brand, is an indispensable rarity.

Andrea Bocchio, Andrea Bocchio

Share! Trying out new things with another brand makes life so much easier. It's less risky as you cut down your costs in half and you are doubling your customer network. Having Natalya Nyn of Toy Syndrome as a partner in crime made even the worst markets so much better.

Think omni-channel especially with pop ups that are taking inventory on consignment and probably not going to sell out. I made sure I could still move that stock online through my own site and pull it if necessary or was able to call and have them set things aside for costumers that met me at another market.

Natalya Nyn, Toy Syndrome

I think it is important to have a pop up or trunk show at an established location with either an existing network or with a lot of foot traffic. It takes a customer awhile to discover and share a new location and most young businesses do not have the time or resources to do that. Also, it really helps to pair up with several other designers so they can bring in their networks and you can share the expenses.

Katie Bartels, Katie Bartels Jewelry

As a veteran of several pop-up shops in several major cities, including NYC, I can say my biggest piece of advice is to go in with very low sales expectations. With this said, you must do your part by working very hard to prepare your merchandise and displays.  You need to be energetic during the show to do what you can to try to have stellar sales. But unfortunately, factors out of your control such as weather, less than adequate promotion, and less than ideal location can make the pop up far from stellar. Pop-up shops and markets are hit or miss but in my opinion, its always worth the risk because at the end of the day, you will at least learn something from your experience.

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