If you’re cursing yourself for not planning something sooner, don’t give up just yet—there’s still plenty of time to pull off an unforgettable seasonal retail experience by hosting a pop-up store. For those retailers who might be skeptical about opening a holiday pop-up store as they see it as an unnecessary cost, some see it as an opportunity to increase their bottom line with limited resources. 

According to the National Retail Federation, the holiday season can account for as much as 30 percent of a retailer’s annual sales. While some consumers may roll their eyes at the holiday season-themed products lining retailers’ shelves as early as late August, the practice of setting up shop early is a great practice to put into place. 

We believe that low-budget, short-term, quick-install pop-ups are set to surge in the coming months. To help you plan, in this blog we will take a look at the pop-up shop, from cost to marketing strategies. Plus, we’ll share examples of brands leading the charge in trending pop-up experiences in a post-pandemic world.

What is a holiday pop-up shop?

Holiday pop-ups provide an ideal opportunity for digitally native brands or companies considering a new location. They can look like a regular store, however, many brands use them to create a unique, engaging physical shopping experience. They can also appear just about anywhere – at a holiday or farmers market, in a local shopping mall, within another retail business’ brick and mortar location, or even as a mobile setting, like a food truck. And they don’t necessarily have to sell traditional products either. A pop-up can sell food, drinks, services, even hospitality like Taco Bell has done in previous years. They’re typically put up as a way to test out a new idea or location, or generate buzz for a business with customers in real-time during the busy holiday shopping months. 

Hosting a holiday pop-up shop is also a great way to penetrate a new market or neighborhood where your target market lives or hangs out while keeping your costs down. Plus, you get the chance to introduce your brand to more people, which, in turn, builds brand awareness that extends well beyond the holidays. In fact, research from Business Insider shows that pop-up shops have historically helped retailers improve market visibility by 51% and increase sales by almost 50%. 

There are a lot of great pop-up examples. Here are a few notable companies that have found success hosting a pop-up shop. ​​Taylor Morgan, a California-based jewelry brand, hosted a pop-up at a local West Elm store to help its products reach new potential customers.

eBay has utilized a pop-up model to bring certain products to consumers in a retail setting during the holiday shopping season.

Birchbox, the popular beauty subscription box, offered a special line of gifts for men, via a holiday pop-up shop in New York.

American Girl only has a few store locations around the country. So to bring its products to even more customers, it sets up temporary mall locations periodically, especially around the holidays to increase sales and reach a wider audience.

Reasons to open or not to open a holiday pop-up shop:

Opening up a holiday pop-up shop is your opportunity to get your products in front of more consumers who are actively buying. Even when you close your temporary location, past customers will remember your brand and as long as they have a good experience are more than likely to visit your permanent store or website. Some other reasons why hosting a pop-up this holiday might be the right move for you include: 

Test a new stream of revenue: Perhaps you want to expand but are hesitant to commit to leasing a new storefront. Your pop-up can be the tactic used to gauge the demand for your products in a particular location. Depending on sales volume, once you close up shop you can begin to determine if opening a permanent store is a sound investment or if you need to revisit the drawing board. 

Test a new product: If you are considering launching a new product line, approach your pop-up as a chance to collect real-time feedback and other valuable insights into how your product and your marketing efforts perform with customers in the wild. A pop-up store is also particularly helpful if you want to test out the waters in a new market or gauge reactions to a product before investing more resources.

Boost sales and gain an uptick in customer traffic: Perhaps the most enticing reason to consider a holiday pop-up shop is to increase sales. The temporary get-it-before-it’s-gone state of pop-ups naturally creates a sense of urgency amongst shoppers. To create this sense of urgency, let your customers know when your pop-up begins and ends as well as letting them know there is limited inventory and once you’re out, you close up shop. Not only will consumers feel compelled to buy before your shop is gone forever, but they’re also more likely to have a deadline of their own urging them to buy now. 

Liquidate inventory: Most retailers do not want to begin the new year with a surplus of seasonal items or outdated inventory as the deadstock can add to your operating expenses and crowd storage rooms. Use your holiday pop-up shop as a chance to sell your products at a discounted price, such as out-of-season items or older models.

Test new marketing promotional strategies: ‘Tis the season for sales. The holidays are an excellent time to take new promotional strategies out for a spin and see how they drive. For instance, try discounting a product for a limited time, offer a flash sale for users who post about your brand on social media, or bundle your merchandise together to evoke a perceived higher value at a lower cost. Many omnichannel retailers also offer an exclusive discount that shoppers can use online, which creates an incentive for them to engage with your brand after your pop-up store closes.

The work doesn’t stop once you close the doors on your holiday pop-up. Not only is it important to analyze your sales performance on the overall success of your pop-up, it is also important to get feedback from your customers to help you plan better moving forward.

Where to start:

If you want to capitalize on the surge in demand the holiday shopping brings, now’s the time to start. Here are some useful tips to get you up and running. 

Find the right location: In order to host a holiday pop-up, you need a space. Without physical space, you can’t do much. Start by familiarizing yourself with the spaces available to you, such as a kiosk at the mall, a local farmer’s market, a mobile truck, or working on a partnership with another local business that has a brick and mortar so you can act on a pop-up opportunity as soon as it comes available. Also, don’t forget about unconventional spaces — like an empty room of an old factory building — and be open to the potential of an otherwise hidden gem just waiting to be filled with your brand fans. Once a space becomes available whether doing it on your own or partnering with another business – book it because every other decision you need to make about your pop-up will be informed by the space from the location to the size, capacity, and even the price.

Decide how you want to market your pop-up: Once you decide on your location, it’s time to start thinking about how you want to market to existing and prospective customers. Some ideas to help get you started are: spreading the word on social media, teaming up with other local brands by collaborating on discounts and promotions to cross-pollinate each other’s audiences, partnering with local news outlets, put up a catchy sidewalk sign, ask brand loyalists or local influencers to get involved to help build trust with your brand and send a newsletter or SMS to customers you have emails and phone numbers for. 

Focus on a small inventory to sell and how to lay it out/design: The PopUp Republic found that 61% of shoppers visit pop-up shops in the mall for seasonal items during the holidays. Even if you don’t sell common items like wreaths, cookies, or other themed goods, you can still join in on the seasonal rush of sales and implement a limited selection of holiday-themed items customers will want to buy. Consider bundling the products that best represent your brand into baskets or packages making it easy for shoppers to imagine themselves giving them as a gift. For instance, if you sell nostalgia gifts and you notice your puzzles are flying off the shelves and your stuffed animals are still sitting there, pair them together as a set at a lower price. Through these bundles, you can sell every day, as well as out-of-season items, that might not sell as well individually.

Another thing to consider when deciding what inventory to sell at your pop-up shop is the cost associated with the products. If you’re eager to reach the most customers and spread awareness about your brand—and clear out your seasonal inventory—choose products to sell at affordable price points that spark impulse buying. For instance, if you are selling wreaths, you want to tap into the urgency that the holiday shopping season brings and convert browsers into buyers by giving them a reason to pick your wreath over one they can buy from a big-box retailer like Michael’s or Hobby Lobby. One avenue to consider is to incorporate a buy-one-get-one (BOGO) promotion where you throw in a lower-priced item as a gift with a purchase to make a higher-priced product a little more attractive.

Set a budget and stick with it: If you have a business that is already operational, this might be the easiest task yet to get started. Planning your budget for a holiday pop-up shop is no different than any financial decisions you make for the sake of your company. Some things you need to consider include:

  • Cost of renting a space, utilities, furniture, lighting, and product displays
  • Merchandising, such as tablecloths and signage
  • Cost of inventory
  • Marketing and promotions
  • Checkout, including point of sales and credit card fees
  • Insurance, depending on the size of your pop-up shop and how long it’s running

Set the experience: According to Bazaarvoice, Inc., 42% of consumers choose to shop at stores that have festive environments so take this as your opportunity to get shoppers into the holiday spirit by creating a fun-filled experience at your holiday pop-up. Fun decorating ideas for your store might include:

  • Setting up holiday-related decorations: Choose a corner of your pop-up to display a Christmas or Kwanzaa cherry tree, presents, kinara, or menorah. You can even put your own products under the tree to show customers how they will look as gifts! 
  • Hanging lights and snowflakes: No matter where your store is located, create a winter wonderland that immerses customers in the holiday season.
  • Covering the ground and shelves in fake snow: If you only want to add a light touch to your store, white stuffing and glitter can help set the mood.
  • Make sure you aren’t just representing Christmas, but all holidays with your decorations.

Once your decorations are in place, choose a festive playlist to inspire shoppers. Research shows that music can affect shopping behaviors, specifically how long guests stay at your store and how much they spend. If you want to make more sales, don’t play your music too loud and choose stores that have a slower tempo. Chanel is a great example of someone who has set a customer experience and then some. Every year from December 12-15, they create a stylish, festive winter wonderland within New York City’s Standard Hotel, dubbing its pop-up shop, “Chanel No.5 in the Snow.” Open to the public, anyone who visits the pop-up shop can enjoy ice skating, hot cocoa, delicious food, and the chance to fully immerse themselves in a beautiful setting fit for their latest social media post.

Remember, this is a temporary store. So, to alleviate the headache of having to find storage space once you close up your holiday pop-up shop, rent any furniture and displays you might need instead of buying them outright. Also, be cognizant of space and keep things simple. For instance, if you do not have much room to work with you don’t want to overcrowd the space with large displays or tons of products which might just overwhelm your customers or only allow a few in the store at a set time. Try to use items that can serve two purposes, such as bookshelves that are aesthetically pleasing and can hold small items for sale. 

For more tips on setting the experience for your holiday pop-up shop check out this visual merchandising guide to encourage your customers to interact with your products and maximize sales.

Bringing it all together

Interested in testing out a retail presence for your business, or are you interested in additional revenue streams? Connect with one of our experts today to discuss your needs further!

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