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Managing a Seasonal Pop-Up Store


December 05, 2019     3 minute read

By: Bob Baumann, Capital Improvements & Construction Director

Just when you thought online shopping would be the final nail in the coffin for traditional retail, brick-and-mortar stores are proving they’re alive and well. Despite events like Cyber Monday and the larger e-commerce boom, recent research reveals only about 11% of total U.S. retail sales occur online. And while some legacy stores, from Radio Shack to Toys R Us, have closed their doors in recent years, many others continue to thrive.

One key factor driving brick-and-mortar’s longevity is its increasing ability to adapt. It’s no longer necessary for retailers to cement themselves as permanent fixtures in shopping malls or strip centers to establish a physical presence. Although they’ve technically been around since the 1990s, pop-up stores have taken off in recent years and all manner of brands are exploring what temporary shops can do for their bottom line.

There are several different types of pop-up stores, but one of the earliest on the scene was the holiday pop-up. And when you think about it, this makes perfect sense: Save for the truly holiday-obsessed, most people only shop for their Halloween or Christmas wares a few weeks in advance of the big day. While there are a handful of exceptions to the rule, operating a holiday-specific store year-round would result in lost profits and lackluster sales for most brands.

Managing a seasonal pop-up is much different than running a permanent retail location. Here are a few tips on how to ensure your pop-up shop is a success.

Establish Your Goals Upfront

Before you start ironing out the logistics, take some time to understand your wider organizational goals. For example, it’s helpful to determine whether you’re dealing with a “fixed” mindset or a growth-oriented one. If the goal of your pop-up is to expand into new markets, your approach should reflect this objective. 

Make Your Plans Well in Advance

When it comes to opening a seasonal pop-up, there’s no such thing as planning too far ahead. A good rule of thumb is to start making preparations at least six months in advance of the grand opening. This will give your design team time to come up with concepts while your contractors get acquainted with the space and what’s required to get it up and running.

This is especially important if you’ll be rewiring electrical panels, installing new lighting or adding extra cash wraps at checkout. These tasks are time-intensive, and you run the risk of delays if you only start planning three months before your anticipated opening.

Mind the Regulatory Details

Whether you’re filling a vacant storefront or taking up residence within a shopping mall, there will be several safety regulations to consider. Do you need to install emergency lighting and/or exit signs? Is the sprinkler system up to code? Does the space come equipped with enough fire extinguishers? Nail these details down ahead of time so you don’t get tied up in red tape.

Pop-Up Store Construction – Expect the Unexpected.

Know how much control you have over the space.  Once you determine the landlord do’s and don’ts, as well as any regulatory requirements, selecting qualified contractors is the next step.  Since pop-up leases are usually short term it’s critical to have teams of experienced multiple skilled trades persons available to ensure you meet store opening dates as well as brand expectations.  Be prepared for the unknown when going into a new space.  Site modifications are not a stumbling block with experienced crews.   

Break Your Site Down As Carefully As You Put It Up

When it comes time to disassemble your seasonal pop-up store, it can be tempting to tear everything down as quickly as possible. This approach may save you time in the short-term, but it can leave the space ravaged and in poor condition. Because you may want to reuse the same location year after year, it’s in your best interest to dismantle your pop-up with care. Otherwise, you risk damaging walls or fixtures that you’ll be on the hook to repair or replace, and these costs can add up quickly.

For retailers looking to make the most of the holiday season, pop-up stores are a cost-effective place to start. By researching your location, planning design concepts and making construction arrangements well before the season’s in full swing, you’ll be laying the groundwork for bountiful holiday sales.

Download NEST’s eBook to read tips on sticking to a timeline and budget while elevating the organization’s brand image and the customer experience during remodels & refreshes.

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