Advice & Resources

I've had enquiries from people asking how to go about setting up a pop-up shop and other pop-ups.  On this page I'm going to attempt to offer some advice and resources.  It's a work in progress - if you have any tips, or think I've got it very wrong, then please let me know.

A quick caveat - I've never run a pop-up, but I've been chronicling them for over 2 years now, and I've also spoken to people who have, and so this is a summary of what I've learnt.

(A fantastic resource is Dan Thompson's book Pop-up Business for Dummies.  It's mainly for people planning and running shops, but it's also applicable to all pop-up businesses, and is very good on the planning, the processes, legal aspects, and has some checklists too.  Would you have remembered a step ladder?  Buy the book here )

CityAM wrote a good article on 3 ways to make the most of a pop-up shop

Appear Here has a very good guide - Everything you need to know to set up shop

On with my guide:

1 - Location

Look at previous pop-ups that have been run in London.  Which is closest to what you want to do, and which are likely to attract the people you see as your customers?

Talk to the agents for the properties.  Here are some links to spaces and agents that have had pop-ups in the past, or seem to represent spaces that have been used for pop-ups.

Regularly run pop-ups:

The Nancy Victor Gallery - Just off Goodge Street, near to Tottenham Court Road - can be used as a shop or as a gallery

PopupSpace - All over London (inc Calvert St, East London) - Arranged the Cabinet pop-up store

Old Truman Brewery - have had lots including Bape and Swear.  This is the link to book space.

Kingly Court / Carnaby St area - seem to have at least one pop-up at any time

Selfridges - again, regularly have pop-ups in store - the contact details bottom right of their website ('Contact us')

Craft Central have 3 spaces available in Clerkenwell / Farringdon to people who sell things they've crafted themselves - see details here You need to be a member to rent them, but there are lots of benefits of membership

‘i-am’ Beyond is a company that can help with everything pop-up, and for spaces specifically in the Seven Dials area.  There are often pop-up shops in the Seven Dials area, and to appear the retailers must fit into the general feel and values of the area.  Contact 'i-am' Beyond for more information.

Keep an eye on the site PopupSpaceBlog, who regularly feature properties available, and have a very property-centric focus

Other agents who seem to represent properties that have been used for pop-ups in the past:

Shop Property - & this link for their temporary units

Showcase - including units in Store Street, off Tottenham Court Road

Dominion

Empty Shops Network - lots of retail units, but mainly outside London

Boxpark, the shipping container mall in Shoreditch also currently has units to fill - check out their site here, and email them (info@boxpark.co.uk) for more info.

As with all property decisions shop around as much as you can, and negotiate hard.  I heard about one retailer who got a very good deal by making a very late decision on which unit to go for.

In a more 'cooperative' vein, Meanwhile Space is a forum for people across the UK looking for and offering space to use.

Finally, 3Space is an organisation that helps charities get free use of property for short term leases.  If you're a charity, get in touch with them!

Or, if you don't feel that you're ready to take on a full shop yourself, you can rent shelf pace at Things British in Kingly Court.  Things British is a small shop that rents out shelf space to designer-makers at approximately £25 per week.  The rental is paid in advance, but after that there is no commission on sales. There's an article all about these sorts of 'rent a shelf' options here

Tusch & Egon in Chadwell St, near to the Angel, also let you rent shelf space within their design store.  See all the details here

1a - Art Spaces - This feels like it deserves its own section

Finding spaces to use for art projects is difficult, but Fleur, who operates a gallery space in Queens Parade, Willesden Green has produced this guide based on her experiences:

"Finding an empty space in which to run your project – be it gallery, temporary exhibition or social enterprise – can seem daunting: How do you find space. If you see an empty shop in your high street how do you find out who the landlord is? How do you approach them – can you get a lease at the right rent for your purse? However, there are tools to do this. It is possible!!
Here are some top tips drawn from my experience but also drawing on the wealth of knowledge that is out there ‘doing’ this already. You don’t have to ‘pay’ for this advice -  people actually doing this in the field will happily pass on advice and pointers to assist more people, like yourself, to create a thriving arts community."

Read on...

2 - Retail Design

You can generally do this yourself (or the unit will come with set facilities).  If you're going for something special (a specific look or effect) it might be an idea to use a designer.  

Green Room Retail have lots of experience in designing pop-ups - for example they did the recent Vans pop-up in Shoreditch.  You can see other examples here

Another company to talk to is Hot Pickle.  They have done work for companies like Marmite and Maille - see their site and case studies here

Another is Prop Studios.  They have done work for people like Anya Hindmarch - which won an award - see what they did here

Finally, if you want some signs making - including anything from hand-painted to neon signs - have a look at The Electric Sign Workshop

2a - Shipping Containers

Shipping containers have become popular things to use in pop-ups - think Boxpark, but also the Ebay pop-up shop in Covent Garden in the run up to Christmas 2012.  Creator International is the company who were behind this, and also the more traditional Gillette Movember pop-up off Carnaby Street in 2012 - find out all about them on their website here, or on their YouTube channel.

Another company that can help with shipping containers is Bell Container Trading, who have a special site, Pop-up Containers, to showcase their shipping container conversions.  Have a look here.

3 - Publicity and PR

A pop-up shop or restaurant is a great hook to use to get press for your brand, so make sure you get the word out that you are offering something new and different for a limited time only.

To do this you'll need to plan in advance, magazines have long lead times so try and get a press release out as soon as possible.  Create a distribution list of all the relevant titles, but don't forget the local titles and blogs too.

If it's a shop then host events in your pop-up shop.  People wont be used to seeing you in the space so you need to work hard to let the public know your there. Definitely invite your network to a launch event and think about hosting other promotional evenings, talks, how-to events and so on.

Have a guest book, take cards from visitors (think about running a competition to get more) and have lots of your own cards to give out.

Twitter have just published a really good guide to how to use their service to promote your business - read it!

This is a good checklist (albeit American) for things you should do to promote yourself.

I think this is really good - advice for bands who aren't selling out their shows.  Substitute 'restaurant' for 'band' and it should give you lots to think about, including You Think The Venue Will Promote, and You Rely Solely on Facebook

4 - Ticketing

If you're running a supper club or restaurant you may want to pre-sell tickets so that you know how many are going to come (& you don't get too many people turning up at once).  You can even set up different sittings by creating multiple events for the same day, at slightly different times.

The simplest way to sell tickets is online, and one company you can work with is Eventbrite. They're a free-to-use self service ticketing company that enable you to create an account and manage your ticket sales from your own online admin area. You can then add the facility to buy tickets to your website/blog, Facebook, Twitter and mailing list etc.

Eventbrite is totally free for free events - and when you set up your first paid event they're offering a £100 fee credit (which should cover the first few events) if you create your account here.

5 - Drinks

If you want a bar at your event, or beer to sell, then The Meantime Brewery offer a mobile service - they can supply a bar with staff, equipment, or other options.  Contact them here for details

Indie Ales run popup craft beer bars specialising in interesting and incredibly tasty beer. They go above and beyond an ordinary bar, sharing their passion for beer and helping people discover great beer and sharing the stories behind them - Contact here for details

6 - Food

Marky Market is a man who goes to the fresh markets very early in the morning, and so is very well set up to supply pop-up restaurants.  You can more about his service and his prices here.

Plus - see this page of resources on Safe Food Handling

7 - How to Run A Supper Club or Pop-up Restaurant or Streetfood stall

This clearly needs its own long section, but rather than that I'll pass you over to people who have done it:

PlusSixFive Supper Club - Ten Tips & Part 2 (more specific tips like timings, pricing, and - um - chairs)

Sabrina Ghayour of Sabrina's Passions - How To Start Your Own Gourmet Pop-up Restaurant

Angie Ma's ten tips

Also - how to open a street food eaterie, by Melissa Loves Food

Plus -  The Rib Man on how he started out & Street Kitchen on how they started

If you get beyond that point, here is some advice from MEATLiquor on how to progress from pop-up to permanent

8 - Payments

You can manage payments through a mobile till system - for example the AirPOS.  See their site for details.

Also, WorldPay now have a mobile version - see details here.

Another card payment solution is payleven - users of this site can get a £20 on the purchase of the device, when it is first used. To get the £20 off, use the code "POPUP" when you checkout.

9 - Common mistakes

There are some very good answers to the question 'Why do many cafes fail' on Quora. It's specifically for cafes, but the issues discussed and advice is relevant to lots of small customer-facing businesses.

E.g:  "If only people understood the truth that most cafe startups fail - then they may not be so tempted to indulge their fantasy in the first place. Failure, not so much in terms of 'closing the doors', but failure as a business concept to reward owner/managers to the same level as what their capital and time would secure from a combination of bank interest and 'working for the man'. 
For me, the #1 reason why startup cafes fail to achieve economic sustainability, is the endless supply of amateurs that fall victim to the siren's enticing call 'to own our own cafe/restaurant'. These people have no idea about how to price products that are capable of giving the owner/manager a competitive return for their long hours worked and a competitive return on their substantial investment. But their less-than-sustainable prices keeps even the good cafe operators from getting reasonable returns in the industry. So, as the rotating door of new entrants replace the outgoing haggared failures, prices remain for all participants below what is required for the industry to be a sustainable and worthwhile investment. Sure, you can extract a wage from your cafe investment but 'buying a job' is hardly the stuff of sustainable business models."

See also - '7 reasons why no one's coming to your shows' - written for bands, but could also apply to pop-ups!

10 - Empty Shops Network

The Empty Shops Network have a wiki which gives their advice on how to set up a pop-up, including writing a plan, planning a budget, finding funding, finding a space and more.  See it here

11 - Legal aspects

There are a lot of potential legal issues & pitfalls with running a pop-up (as with all sorts of business) and solicitors Poppleston Allen have produced a short summary of the issues, including licencing, health and safety and food safety, which you can read here.  They also offer a free 30 minute consultation at their offices in Holborn - see full details here.

Poppleston Allen have also produced this article on changes to planning laws and commercial use with respect to pop-ups


Any other tips?  Please let me know
dan.calladine@londonpopups.com