Faced with an increasingly demanding clientele eager for exclusivity, originality and experience, physical stores must reinvent themselves, notably through formats such as pop-up stores. This formula is attractive to traders thanks to its flexibility and to customers thanks to its bold, surprising nature. More than just a trend, pop-up stores have become a must for brands wanting to stand out and enhance their reputation. We explain why and how to create your pop-up store.
What is a pop-up store?
A pop-up store is a temporary store that only opens its doors for a short period of time, from a few days to a year. Pop-up stores were first created in the United States at the end of the '90s and gradually invaded Belgium from 2010. One of the forerunners of the pop-up store trend in our country is the Lyon-based chain Chronostock, whose strategy is based on the use of temporary spaces.
Who benefits from a pop-up store?
Since its advent, the pop-up store has become a real marketing and commercial tool. The formula is now winning over all types of traders, from local creators to multinationals, not to mention young entrepreneurs, luxury brands and pure players. The pop-up store concept has its advantages at every stage of a project's maturity and fulfils different objectives.
For pure players, i.e. companies that are only present online, a temporary store is the perfect place to meet and retain their customers. The pop-up store gives the brand the opportunity to physically meet its public, and allows the customer to experience the product.
Luxury brands are also choosing the pop-up formula. Luxury giants see pop-up stores as an opportunity to create an event by offering unique and innovative experiences to attract more customers and become more modern. These brands are often creative and play with the codes of personalisation and gamification.
Artists and artisans
The pop-up store trend is also attractive to many artists and artisans, who generally join forces and occupy a space for a certain period of time to pool efforts, minimise costs, increase the customer numbers and, potentially, enjoy a larger or better located sales outlet.
A pop-up store is also an opportunity for young entrepreneurs to test a commercial activity and launch it at a lower cost. The pop-up allows people to test a new concept, a new product or a new market... and to test themselves as traders by minimising the possible impacts of failure. Pop-up shops offer budding merchants the right to make mistakes!
Test spaces: L'Auberge Espagnole and Kokotte
In 2016, aware of the attractiveness of the pop-up store concept for retailers, hub.brussels, the Brussels agency for business support, launched a project called L'Auberge Espagnole . This business incubator allows young entrepreneurs to test their concept for three months before taking the step towards a permanent store and making longer-term investments. Each project also receives free personalised coaching and expert advice.
This concept has also been available for restaurant projects since 2019. Kokotte, the food incubator of hub.brussels, welcomes and supports a new concept every four months.
Benefits for property owners and public authorities too
It is not just traders and their customers who benefit from the pop-up, as property owners and public authorities do too.
Renting out a commercial space for a (short) period of time obviously earns the owner an occupancy fee. The temporary occupancy of a unit also allows its (re)development and combats commercial vacancy. This contagious phenomenon can have significant consequences for the unit's direct surroundings. Encouraging temporary occupancy to combat commercial vacancy or the commercial decline of certain shopping districts ultimately leads to the urban revitalisation of a street or district.
Opening your pop-up store: tips
Do not confuse pop-up with haste
An action of this type requires a lot of thought and preparation beforehand. For the pop-up store to be a success for everyone, it is essential to understand the project well, both in terms of location and layout and in terms of communication and the mobilisation of stakeholders.
Just as for the opening of a permanent store, it is necessary to create a business plan to prepare for the opening of a pop-up store. This business plan addresses points such as the definition of the target audience and its needs, the budget and the financial objective of the project.
Choose your location
In according with the objectives previously specified, you will then have to determine the duration of the pop-up store (three days, one month, several months, etc.), the location, the type of space (store, workshop, corner, etc.) and the layout of the interior/exterior.
Consider a location with heavy foot traffic to improve your chances of conversions. Contact a local real estate agent to help you find available spaces or check out these platforms that list temporary spaces for rent:
The hub.brussels' Retail Unit can also help you choose the right district(s) for your concept/product.
Short-term commercial lease
The next step is to determine how long the pop-up store will be open, the layout and the type of occupancy contract. Since May 2019, Brussels traders have been able to enter into a short-term lease agreement of up to one year. This is a way for the Brussels-Capital Region to boost trade, encourage young entrepreneurs to start up and allow the creation of innovative concepts.
Lastly, even if the occupancy is short-term, the rules for urban planning, environment, authorisation to open a business, waste management, etc. must be respected.
It is essential to establish a communication plan and start communicating before the pop-up store opens to make the most of the occupancy time.
Therefore, offering a programme of events spread over the duration of the pop-up maintains an active dynamic and helps to attract new potential customers for each event. Events can be workshops, product presentations, conferences, meetings, tastings or other activities, depending on the nature of the pop-up. It is obviously important to ensure coherence between the object of the pop-up and the proposed events.