Pop Ups: Pop It Like It’s Hot

Bakers have been stepping out of the bakery and taking their goods on the road. We take a look at the pop-up store: how to plan one, what you need to pull one off, and why hosting one might be a good idea for your business.

What Even Is A Pop Up?

Put simply, a pop-up shop is a temporary trading place. Increasingly used by retailers across the board, pop-ups are the latest go-to marketing strategy that helps to increase brand visibility, test out new locations and, hopefully, make a buck at the same time.

Dominique Lamb from the National Retail Association (NRA) says, “When pop-up stores are launched in a way that is respectful and supportive of existing retail tenants, they can become an important way to keep shopping centres fresh and dynamic—something that consumers really demand in a modern retail environment.”

But not all pop-ups are shopping centre-bound. You can pop up in an outdoor mall, street festival, market… the list goes on.

Some businesses have an extensive pop-up regime, such as Sydney’s Oregano Bakery, who has toured their scrolls through Rockhampton, Bribie Island, New South Wales’s Central Coast and various locations in Sydney; or Knafeh, who house their bakery in a repurposed shipping container they can transport. Other pop-ups can be as short as a few hours at a market or festival—and some evolve into full-time trading places.

Why Pop Up?

Dominique says, “The retail industry is one of the most dynamic, but also difficult, in Australia, so being able to carve out your own niche in a store environment has never been more difficult, nor expensive.”

She says pop-ups are an avenue for tomorrow’s retailers to dip their toes in, conduct real market testing, build their brand profile and cultivate a customer base. All this without the risks associated with expensive lease agreements, store fit-out costs and compliance imposts.

Dominique says, “A lot of new retailers are starting with a digital footprint before branching out into pop-ups as a slow, steady and sensible way to build a brand following and customer base. While they have great ambition, innovative ideas, and oodles of enthusiasm, they also have limited experience dealing with landlords, Australian tax law, business management operations, and of course, also have limited capacity to even consider financing one anyway.”

She says new pop-up businesses have the potential to become the anchor tenants of the future.

“It’s like the causal trial that won’t send up-and-coming retailers to the wall.”

But pop-ups aren’t just for new businesses; they’re also a means for established businesses to expand and/or build their brand.

Adriano Zumbo, who’s been popping his Zumbarons up all over Sydney and Melbourne, says popping up in different locations allows him to try out new areas.

“It’s a good way of trying to get a feel for an area without having to sign up to a full-time lease. You can do a month, two months… depending on what you want to do.”

He says pop-ups are also a great way to earn a bit of extra cash.


Where To Pop?

When scoping out an area in a shopping centre for your pop-up, Dominique recommends finding a location with as much foot traffic as possible.

“Don’t end up hidden away down an alleyway that’s designed for perfunctory purposes. You want to be highly visible.”

Adriano, who’s hosted pop-ups at various festivals as well as shopping centres, says picking the right spot is key.

“You don’t want to do a pop-up in the middle of nowhere just because something’s available. You want to get a good traffic area.”

While festivals all have their own requirements, pop-up stalls in shopping centres need to be leased.

Adriano says, “Pop-ups that you do from abandoned shops will typically be with a real estate agent. They’ll have a site maybe for 12 months and they just want to get some traffic through it or get some cash from it while it’s not in use.”

Adriano will typically sign an agreement for three months, or sometimes on a casual basis.

“It’s pretty much like signing a lease but a more temporary one.”

While pop-ups offer the option of bugging out if business isn’t going well, Adriano says you should keep your options open just in case the opposite happens.

“I’ll sign a lease for a month but I’ll want an option to extend for another two months if it goes well. The last thing you want is for it to be going well but then somebody already leased it for the next month so you’ve got to pack up and go.”

When To Pop?

When planning your pop-up, consider time of year and how it fits with your product.

“When you open can make or break your success,” says Dominique.

“For food, think about the type of product you’re selling, and who your buyer is. Bespoke, gift-style confectionary and chocolate that is presented exquisitely could be far more successful in the days before Mother’s Day, or in the lead-up to Christmas.”

What To Pop With?

Popping into a store that’s already fit out for food production is the easiest way to go, but it’s also the least likely scenario. Most pop-ups consist of only shopfronts, with cooking being done offsite.

Adriano has a portable cabinet ready-made for pop-ups, which he transports as required.

“It’s pretty much a refrigerated cabinet and an ambient cabinet. We pack it all into the van, take it to the loading dock, unload and bump in.

“The ambient cabinet holds the macarons and we keep all our cakes in the fridge.”

He also packs a portable hand basin, a table to hold packaging, and—depending on the site—a backup fridge.

“On some pop-ups, if you’re not against a wall, there’s a height restriction at 1.4 metres, so you can’t use a fridge, unless you’ve got an under-bench fridge.”

He says you can have equipment and stands designed for pop-ups, but the expense is hard to justify.

“You can have your pop-up designed with nice wooden panelling and all that stuff but you won’t get that much short of 50-grand—and for a pop-up, that defeats the purpose.

“If you’ve got 50-grand on your overheads, you have to make 50-grand plus the cost of running it every day. You probably won’t get your money back.”

He recommends doing your best with what’s available or investing in a portable set-up that you can continue to use.

“That way you can get a little more versatility out of it.”

And while you’re packing, Dominique also urges you to consider payment options.

“No one has cash anymore, and no one is going to come back after going to the ATM.”

She warns that if you want people to spend money, you need to provide convenience.

“You need to make it easy for them to pay with the fastest, easiest and most seamless payment methods on offer.

“And make sure your insurances are in order,” she adds.

How To Really Pop?

Adriano outlines two factors for making your pop-up pop: taking the right stuff, and making it fun.

“Sometimes,” he says, “when there’s too many products in the one place it just gets lost. So Bakery in our Balmain shop does really well, but in the city, it’s just an afterthought.

“Getting your variety right is key.”

He also recommends making your pop-up an experience for your customers.

“If you just go round opening the same shops then sometimes that can be a bit boring.”

He says focusing on a special product or experience makes it fun.

“You need something that makes it a little bit unique. Something that people can come and do, whether it’s come and personalise something—that’s a little bit more of an attraction.”

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