Have you finagled your way into having a pop-up shop? Been given a short-term space to sell your products? That's AWESOME ~ Congrats!
Are you thinking, "What now?"
Don't worry, everyone is a pop-up shop newbie at some point, and with each subsequent pop-up, you'll learn what works and what doesn't work and make improvements.
But let's get off on the best foot possible right from the jump, shall we? Over the course 4 art-related pop-up shops within West Elm furniture/home decor stores, as well as numerous business conventions and bridal expos, I've done my fair share of logistics, prep, sales and follow up, and here are my 7 Best To Do's to ensure you're prepared.
1. Bring A Sign Up Sheet
No matter what you're selling (even if you're not selling it right then and there), you're going to want to collect those contact details! Name and email address at the very least (and if you're in the bridal industry, wedding date). Even if you don't have an official email list going yet, you're going to want to follow up with these people after the show to a. THANK them for stopping by, b. OFFER to answer any questions, c. GIVE an action item (i.e. ask them to reply with feedback, join your email list, go to your website, or read your blog post).
I've seen this be successful in different ways: Some people have success just leaving a mailing list sign up sheet out on the booth and having people sign up like that. This has been less successful in my art business, so I've taken to chatting with people and getting their contact info to follow up with them on specific topics. With this tactic, however, I CANNOT just add them to my email list unless I've specifically told them that's what I'm going to do and they've agreed.
2. Create An Interactive Experience
The first time I did a West Elm pop up shop, I had all of my art staged so that everything could be seen on full display. Well what happened was that people looked from afar and then glided by without getting close or speaking to me. I didn't have anything to draw people in. Products that lend themselves to touching and moving seem to do much better ~ textiles, jewelry, note cards. So what I've started doing is a. placing some strategic piles of paintings around so that people have to move one thing to see another and b. having a basket of prints and works on paper for flipping through.
This leads me to another point about display. DUH. How are you going to display your items? Laid out? Do you need easels? Baskets? Pedestals? Oh, if it were only so easy as to bring the items and have them be beautifully arranged! Days before my first West Elm pop up I had to express order easels, as well as clear display bags for my prints. Whoops!
3. Point Of Service On Point
Figure out what payment methods you want to accept and TEST them!!! The first time I tried to take a credit card payment at a pop-up, I assumed I'd be able to run it through my website, as if they were just purchasing something online. BUT I failed to consider the fact that a. shipping was automatically calculated (and they obviously didn't need shipping) and b. sales tax was computing improperly because it was basing it off of their mailing address, not the location where I was actually making the sale.
Be sure to know what your internet connection situation is going to be ahead of time. Are you going to need to bring a hot spot?
Figure out what sales tax rate you need to be collecting and how you are going to calculate it (manually or does your point of service system do it for you).
Are you going to accept cash? Better be ready to make change.
4. Hone Your Pitch
What's the hook that's going to get someone to start talking to you? In the bridal business or with a new company, "Have you heard of NAME OF BUSINESS?" seems to work pretty well. When they say "No" (or even better if they say "Yes"), you jump in with your elevator pitch (the 1-2 sentence synopsis of your business).
But for someone like me, I would feel so dumb being like, "Hey! Have you heard of ME and my artwork?" LOL Embarrassing.
I'm still working out that one phrase that will grab people's attention, but so far, I've been pretty successful with "Good morning." And then I add a personal touch ~ a genuine compliment, a question about their dog/child, asking where they got their shoes!
If they don't blow right by you and maybe take a beat in front of your booth, that's when I jump in with some "fun" facts about me, my paintings, or any promotions I'm having. So something like:
"Good morning! I love your necklace ~ it's so unique! [they pause] I'm the artist and all of these are original paintings by me. With any purchase today, I'm making a donation to the NRDC, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and you'll get some cute polar bear cookies. Let me know if you have any questions!"
5. Signage ~ Enough Is Enough Already
You are DEFINITELY going to want to have at least one large(ish) sign that says who you are/name of business and maybe location if that's important information. This should be displayed prominently and should grab people's attention!
But then comes allllll the other kinds of signage:
About You statements/Artist statements/Bios
Other marketing material
Kinds of payment accepted
I've had all of these things, and I've found it's a balancing act. Have #allthethings and no one will have to ask you any questions, thereby forgoing an opportunity to interact! Also if you have a lot of pretty marketing materials that have overlapping info, people will inevitably take one of everythingggggg ~ what a waste of paper.
I've tried having business cards and NOT having business cards. This was a fun experiment. Honestly, I've NEVER had anyone just take a business card and then follow up unless we've also had a little chat. So I tried skipping the cards, forcing myself to chat with people, and then when they said "Do you have a card?" I instead asked them to give me their contact info to follow up. I would say half the people did so, and half of those people responded to my follow up email. Of the people that didn't give me their contact info, they took a picture of my sign for future reference.
I think next time I will have business cards but not on display so that people have to ask and we can have a chat. No more sidling up, grabbing a card and running away. Also I think I'm going to create a semi-large sign with my Instagram handle on it so that people can look me up and follow along right then and there.
You'll have to think about what feels right to you, but here's where I'm currently shaking out on my Must-Have Signage:
Business Name & IG handle ~ large
Forms of payment accepted ~ small placard
Price tags on individual artwork, no general signage
Business cards (on my person, not on display)
Email list sign up form (on my person, not on display)
Artist bio/statement if I'm at an art fair/expo, not a general pop-up shop
6. Strategic Pricing
Another tricky balancing act. Maybe you sell products that all fall in the same price range: great! This point might not be important to your biz. For me, I sell some things for $20 and some things for $500!! So should I bring all of it?
With pop-up shops, people aren't necessarily there to see YOU (sad but true). You are probably a random vendor within a larger store, and so people aren't expecting to buy your goods on that day.
What I've found is that people who will purchase something, tend to skew towards the less expensive items. If I bring paintings that are $20-$350, people will buy the $20 items. If I bring paintings that are $100-$500, people will buy the $100 items.
BUT! If I'm selling $20 items, I'm probably selling 5 of them, whereas if I'm selling $100 items, I'm only selling 1 of them.
Again, you'll have to figure out your sweet spot in terms of your goals: do you need to get rid of a bunch of lower priced products (also it probably looks good to have a bustling booth with lots of sales to draw others in), or are you okay not selling a lot if you could just sell 1 higher priced item?
7. Solo Vs. Group Pop-Ups
I've done both group pop-ups and individual ones where I was the only outside vendor on a given day. I would say that being part of a group of vendors was so much more fun than being solo. There's an air of excitement among both the vendors and the customers.
While being the only vendor of the day feels special, with multiple vendors, customers start to realize, "Hey! There are all these cool local artists and makers here! I'm going to pay attention."
When you're by yourself, it takes a minute for customers to realize that you aren't part of the larger store, you can't bring them a pillow in another color, or ring them up....but you probably CAN point them to the bathroom!
Okay this blog is getting really long, but one BONUS idea (which is really quite central to the whole thing): HOW MUCH STUFF SHOULD I BRING?!?!
For a pop-up, bring enough product to back-fill as you sell out of things. Think about what typically sells the best (or is the cheapest) and bring more of that.
For an art show/expo, sometimes it's better to have some empty gaps to show people where things used to be that have already been sold. It might make them feel like you have something really cool that other people are totally into and they should be into too!
PS. Think about what happens if someone buys something!! Are you gift wrapping it? Be sure to bring all the checkout items you may need!
Oh, and don't forget water and snacks for yourself!!!!!!
Curious about West Elm pop-ups specifically? That blog post is coming, so get reminded by signing up for the HLC VIP list!