The low-down on retail pop-up shops and why they are so important


The retail pop-up shop is becoming increasingly popular. But what exactly is it?

Essentially, a retail pop-up shop is a short-term shop, store or space that has a very specific aim, such as to launch or drive awareness of a new product. Retail pop-up shops are a great way for brands to engage with their audience and test the market before committing to a more permanent space.

Why are retail pop-up shops a popular choice for brand activation? The pandemic, along with global economic challenges, has seriously wounded the retail industry. A retail pop-up shop offers a reduced risk, which is appealing to brands, a way to dip their toe in the bricks-and-mortar water without the financial outlay of a full-time store commitment.

What are the benefits of a pop-up shop?

A pop-up shop offers a win-win for everyone. They’re a great way for shoppers to get a taster of a new product or interact with a different brand. And for brands and retailers, they offer a strong opportunity not just to boost sales in the short term, but to also get up close with their audience and attract a new band of loyal followers.

Shoppers are generally intrigued by a retail pop-up shop. As well as the excitement of a new brand, they can also often find discounts, offers, competitions and giveaways, which are a standard feature of a pop-up. While online shopping has an undoubted appeal, nothing really beats an in-person interaction with a brand, especially one that is offering something beyond the physical product. A retail pop-up can bridge the gap between physical and ecommerce retail experiences.

The brand also gets instant access to a raft of potential new customers, showing off their products to best effect and seeing an instant surge in sales. The added bonus here is gathering data and insights into potential new customers, helping to shape future brand strategy. A retail marketing team’s dream!

Plus, brands can tap into the experiential side of shopping, offering innovative and inspirational ways for their shoppers to engage with them. It’s a great way to experiment and see what draws in the shoppers and what drives them to make purchases.

A temporary retail shop is also a good way for brands to test the water, checking out different locations, venues or even countries to see where the greatest demand for their product lies.

The social side

Social media forms an important part of brand marketing activity by providing the ability to reach a wide audience, so a retail pop-up shop that offers Instagram or other photo opportunities will be an extra draw to shoppers. You could set up an Instagram wall, create a unique hashtag and encourage your visitors to share online to spread the word. While a pop-up shop is about the physical experience, the virtual world is a great way to let others know where you are and what you’re doing. It can help to drive additional footfall too!

Pop-ups: a shop for everyone

One of the beauties of a retail pop-up shop is that it can really be used for any brand in any industry. They make the perfect place for a beauty product launch, offering visitors the chance to test the product, have a make-up demonstration, and maybe take away a free sample. In the same way, food and drink brands can offer tastings, run giveaways, highlight pairings… without getting lost in the noise of an in-store environment.

For online retailers, having a small and temporary physical presence can alert customers to your brand and direct them to your online store. And those retailers who already have an existing physical space can try out new ideas beyond the traditional parameters of their store before introducing the concept more widely.

New brands are savvy to consider a retail pop-up shop as a step up from markets and fairs, helping them to test whether their product has scope for something bigger. Low risk, low cost and a short-term commitment, what other reasons do you need to know that a retail pop-up shop is a great choice for a new and upcoming brand.

Where do pop-ups pop up?

Essentially, anywhere, and everywhere! Shopping centres are popular, as they have a high footfall and good visibility, either within the mall or housed in vacant store premises.

Or the placement of a retail pop-up shop could be outside in a town centre, again attracting the attention of a significant number of passers-by. You often see these with flags and banners to help attract attention.

What’s the difference between a retail pop-up and shop-in-shop?

A retail pop-up is an independent shop. Whereas a shop-in-shop is a smaller, concession style shop inside another shop. A shop-in-shop allows the brand to tap into the existing custom of the host store without having to invest in its own larger premises immediately.

A great example of a shop-in-shop is one we created for American toy brand, FAO Schwarz in Selfridges. The activation was to be their entry into the UK market and as a brand known for their high-end toys, life-sized stuffed animals, and interactive experiences, it needed to be toy display with the WOW factor. Read the FAO Schwarz case study here.

Another great example of a shop-in-shop is how Van Hage created a unique Christmas shopping experience using a sustainable gingerbread house activation within one of their garden centres. Read the Van Hage case study here.

Selfridges have a dedicated space within their London store for shop-in-shop activations. We brought a cultural collaboration between artist Victor Vasarely and fashion designer Paco Rabanne to life in their iconic Corner Shop. The brief was to turn the retail space into a museum-like experience. Read the Universe case study here.

How to make your retail pop-up stand out

Location, location, location is the first consideration for your pop-up shop. Who do you want to visit you and where are these shoppers most likely to be? If you’re on a budget, how can you achieve your aims and stick to your allocated costs?

Strong visual appeal is crucial. You’re aiming to attract passers-by who are probably already on their own shopping mission, so you want your shop to stop them in their tracks. Get creative, think strong branding, and bold messaging.

Moneycorp use strong branding and bold colours on their currency exchange pop-up shops to grab the attention of passing travellers or shoppers. Read the Moneycorp case study here.

Depending on your product, think about how you can entice people in – giveaways, competitions, free samples, anything that can get shoppers interacting with your brand and product.

There really isn’t a downside to trying out a pop-up shop. For a relatively small investment, they can get your brand some fantastic exposure and introduce you to a whole new potential set of customers. You’ll see an instant boost in sales and leave visitors with a great impression of your brand and product. It’s the perfect opportunity to be really creative and make your brand truly memorable…

Are you ready to talk about your next retail activation? We’d love to help! Drop us a line on or call us on 01920 461244.

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