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Review of new guide “Pop Up Business for Dummies”

I must admit that I haven’t actually picked up a “Dummies” book before… so reading this new “complete guide to planning, starting and running a successful pop up venture” was an experience in itself… First off, I had to become familiar with the style of this book – around 250 pages of detailed “how to” hints (interspersed with a mix of examples, handy tips and a few hazard warnings !) – presented in a pretty basic, plain English format.

Pop Up Business for Dummies was written by Dan Thompson, one of those dedicated “retail revitalisation” champions mentioned recently in our no one benefits from premises standing empty post. I’ve read about this chap before – occasionally known in Britain as ”Mr. Pop Up”. Dan Thompson has long experience with temporary retail installations and community events, he is founder of the UK’s Revolutionary Arts and Empty Shops Network initiatives, has worked on many pop up shops across Britain – and offers a long list of speaking engagements and media mentions on his blog page. He said recently “…I love how pop-ups can temporarily interest, amuse and delight… or go on to become something more permanent…” He seems passionate and knowledgeable – I’d say Mr. Thompson’s credentials are entirely appropriate for writing this “hands-on guide to all things pop up….”

To meet (view) Dan Thompson – watch this video

The book covers an extensive range of pop-up topics – starting with the initial R&D, through to running the shop, and finally packing it up….

  • First steps with a business plan, defining the purpose, developing objectives
  • Setting a budget, assessing the risks
  • Financing the enterprise, finding premises and staff, setting up the shop
  • Branding and marketing the event, using social (and traditional) media, effective signage within and around the store
  • Manning the pop up, day-to-day housekeeping
  • Measuring the outcomes, de-briefing stakeholders, tidying up the loose ends…

All this will be very handy for a first-time “popper” – the concepts are straightforward and don’t get too sophisticated (very basic in some areas… several suggestions of do-it-yourself cleaning windows, painting walls, making signs, borrowing or scrounging second-hand shop-fittings…). Which is fine (and probably very relevant) for a start-up entrepreneur with little cash and resources – but perhaps not appropriate for an established label or larger business out to create a branding exercise. Given Mr. Thompson’s experience with community and artistic initiatives it is understandable that he’ll offer advice and details on inexpensive but effective tools and hints.

However, more than once the book seems to hint at assured success (just by reading and following the guide). I’m not convinced that applying these concepts can guarantee a great outcome – there are obviously many factors which can impact on a project’s success. Often I hear of pop ups which have disappointed – I suppose the achievement of “success” relies on the initial expectations of the project. Pop up shops are (by their very nature…) a bit of an experiment and adventure – I agree with the author when he suggests any criteria for success could be quite broad (ie. measured in terms of brand awareness, customer feedback, community sprit etc – not limited to a healthy cash return !)

More on the For Dummies aspect…. This Pop Up Business book joins around 1,800 other Dummies titles in print, along with additional on-line lists and video tutorials. After a bit of sniffing around I found the Pop Up Business for Dummies Cheat Sheet – which is a handy (although kind of ad-hoc) summary of many topics covered within the book.

And so that covers the British experience of establishing a pop-up shop… we also reviewed a North American how-to guide in 2012 (see our earlier post on Pop-Up Retail by Christina Norsig)… but what about the Australian perspective ? Well there is such a report, prepared in October 2012 by a local pop up retail expert (no association to popUPshops Melbourne !) This report reviews pop up trends from a global perspective, but with plenty of Australian examples – it seems a well-researched and considered document… We’ll be reviewing that closely and offering more detail soon (eg. where can you get your hands on it !)


Pop Up Business for Dummies by Dan Thompson.

First edition 2012. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Our copy was purchased at – for AU$35.45 including shipping. It’s currently on sale there – at 10% off !


featured image :  Pop Up Business for Dummies by Dan Thompson


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