Celebrating the people behind British small businesses

A handy guide on how to start a pop-up shop

So you’ve seen pop-up shops springing up across  the UK and have decided you want to take the plunge. You’ve got a fabulous idea involving cupcakes, your own clothing label, or a doggy-grooming parlour. But what next?

Fear not – we’ve made you a pop-up shop checklist to help get you on your way. Merry selling!

1.    Research

Research is as important as it is with any other business, and so it’s important that you make sure first of all that your idea is viable and that there is a demand for your product.

  • What are your competitors up to, and how can you offer something different?
  • What is your budget for rent and overheads, and is your limited selling period likely to cover this?
  • If you are running a food or alcohol business, you will have extra costs for certificates and licensing – will you make the money back over the limited period?
 2.    Plan

Your shop might only be temporary, but operating within limited amount of time means that you need to operate at maximum efficiency – so a business plan is more important than ever. Also, unlike other businesses, you have a clear end date for your pop-up, so it’s worth thinking of aims and goals.

  • How long do you want your business to be up and running?
  • How much profit are you aiming to make?
  • What are your plans post pop-up – will you move to another location if successful, or use it as a launchpad for permanent premises?
 3.    Location
  • Where will you put your pop-up shop? There are lots of options such as Boxpark (which even offers you a free premise for a week, if they like you enough), Craft Central, or the Truman Brewery. You might already have somewhere else in mind – a festival stall, an empty shop that you can temporarily rent, or even a vehicle. The sky’s the limit!
  • If you want to have a very small pop-up option, you can even rent shelf or box space. Tusch & Egon, in Islington, offer promotion boxes – prices start at just £14 a week. If there is a larger shop you think would be a good fit for your pop-up, it’s always worth approaching them to see if they would  let you have a shelf in the store, if you want to test the water. TopShop are notable for encouraging pop-ups in store, but independent businesses are also catching onto the idea – Present, a clothes shop in Shoreditch, has a coffee stall in store. Small businesses need to team up!
  • Alternatively, your pop-up might only last a day. In this case, you have even more options, as you can hire pretty much any event space. However this is likely to be more expensive than a longer-term rent, so you need to be confident that it will be worth it. Some good options include Concrete Space in Shoreditch, which often hosts pop-up clothes sales, or Rich Mix.
 4.    Finances
  • Trading for a short time doesn’t necessarily exempt you from VAT – look here to get more information about how to stay on the right side of the taxman when starting your pop-up.
  • Ensure you have a clear budget planned out that takes into account overheads, rent, and suppliers.
  • How are you going to take payment? Mobile payment devices are ideal for taking cards – find out more about card payments here.
 5.    Marketing

Marketing is very important for pop-ups – you don’t have time to build up a loyal base of customers, and need to maximise your profits within a limited time.

  • Start drumming up interest before the pop-up is even open by promoting yourself on social media (if you need a nudge let us know at SBH and we’ll promote you via our twitter accounts)
  • You could offer discounts for a limited amount of customers (say the first twenty who turn up), or by having a launch party.
  • Are there other local businesses that can provide support and promotion, such as letting you place flyers or posters in the shop?
  • Make yourself stand out. One of the calling cards of pop-up businesses is that they are an alternative to stuffy old traditional retail models – they’re supposed to be fun and creative!

So there you have it – a quick checklist to hopefully make the task of starting up your pop-up a little less daunting. Now go forth and innovate the retail landscape… Britain needs you!


For more small business advice, check out this article on the government resources available to help your small business.