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(still…) Scouting for pop up locations


What makes a good pop up space ?

Here’s another in our ‘summer series’… re-posting previous articles on the how-to’s and why’s (or not…) of pop up shops. It tends to be fairly quiet for new pop up events in late December / January, so we usually take the opportunity to point our readers back to some of the basics… This “scouting for pop up locations” article first appeared on our pages in April 2018.


The main things I look for, when “scouting” pop up precincts (and I’ve done that many, many times !)… are location and opportunity. Obviously, the criteria for choosing the venue of a pop up can vary widely, depending on the requirements and objectives of an event (not all spaces suit all pop ups, and not all pop ups suit all spaces !) Usually the “location” is critical and leads the search – but the “opportunity” side of the equation can be equally important…what is happening around a venue that could enhance the experience, and is there further potential ?

And that’s why, before I even set off on a search (online or on-foot), I look at the aims of the pop up. Is it purely a cash sales event (to move inventory), a branding or marketing exercise (to raise consumer awareness), a semi-private affair (launching a new range to media and stakeholders) or something else ? Quite often the objectives will determine whether the pop up needs to be high-profile and high-traffic (for maximum exposure), or something a little more discrete. Even those “discrete” events can attract a lot of attention, and masses of visitors.

Most important of all, usually, is location (location, location…). “Location” incudes not just the physical attributes of a venue – the address, size, condition, access, security – but also the precinct’s character… the general popularity and the style / feel of neighbouring activities. Many pop ups will look for areas with a particular demographic, where their customers are already out on the streets and primed to engage.

You might think that all businesses look for busy locations, with a steady stream of visitors passing by – and that certainly does apply to many (most) retail pop up events. “Footfall” is high on the criteria of most small / independent brands looking for pop up space… Even if an event is widely promoted on social / traditional media, a high-street or centre-mall location can certainly add to the popularity and success of a pop up.

Some pop ups actually prefer a quiet side street… especially those events / brands with healthy social media followings. Consider the Camilla and Grace Loves Lace pop ups in Melbourne recently (2018). Both were clearance-style pop up sales events, and held away from the busy shopping strips. They were also ticketed events – to control crowds and entry times, ensuring some fairness (and a better shopping experience) for all customers.

The “opportunity” side of the equation is harder to define. Quite often a pop up will choose a precinct with complimentary or aligned events – perhaps tagging onto a popular activity (hosting their pop up near the venues and around the dates of major sporting carnivals / fashion festivals / high-profile events) – or popping up next to an event run by a competitor (ambushing their customers with an alternative offer…) – or just maximizing attention (choosing a venue with easy access for crowds / media / police)

Why would a brand consider the media – and police ? Some pop up events are simply designed to attract attention (the more the better) – especially when there’s a celebrity involved. Entertainers and reality-TV stars seem to relish the notoriety (and cash) a pop up event can attract. A few years ago, a Drake pop up in New York City created a stir when the NYPD were called in to disperse the crowds (the store said there was a fight in street, but actually they had run out of stock and wanted to close early…)

Another criteria for a choosing an event space might be the potential to stay on. Many pop ups will commit (to their landlord) for an initial short-term, “testing the waters” to see if the location works for them. It’s often an added-incentive to know the pop up could be extended longer if the precinct works for the business (and there’s still stock to sell / a message to promote)

But every pop up is different ! It seems each business we come across has a variety of reasons why they’re launching into pop up – or doing it again. And those that do repeat their pop up experience often don’t go back to the same (or similar) locations… they learn from each event and use the flexibility of pop up to refine their pop up model (or just to keep it fresh and interesting !)



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