So we've just completed our first pop up here in Amsterdam and learnt a ton along the way! Here are my top tips for if you're thinking of doing something similar.
1) First things first- Just go for it!
If you're even thinking about either running your own or being a part of a pop up I'd say definitely go for it. Yes it's a lot of work, yes you'll loose lots of sleep and yes you may only just make your money back the first weekend but the overall experience will more than make up for it. Just being able to speak face to face with your customers, see how they shop, what they like and what they completely ignore can be used to make both future pop ups and your online store a far greater success.
2) Find the right space, footfall is key
So if you're local in Amsterdam you can check out Go Pop Up to see the types of spaces that are being offered. These range from basements, full shops or just a table/shelf for you to display your products on. Then I'd highly recommend finding the owners and contacting them directly, that way you don't have to pay the booking fees and they get to learn more about you and your products. Relationships are key if you'd like to make it a regular event.
Unless you have a huge marketing budget then looking for a space with high footfall will really help drive customers to you. I did a small amount of pre event marketing, put up signs etc but 90% of people who came in did so just because they happened to be passing.
3) Store layout - It's true what they say
Read anything online about designing a store and they will say the same thing, people go to the right so make this the most prominent feature. My space had a kitchen directly to the right so I decided to try and make people turn left, it didn't work! Everyone went straight to the right where I just had a small table with some bibs on it. The bibs sold great! But I know I missed out on a lot of sales that day by not taking the advice I'd read online.
Overnight I changed the layout to make the right a feature, putting a lovely teepee (which on day 1 was outside and only served as a good photo for passing tourists) a play area for kids and lots of lovely swaddling blankets. The second day was super quiet but I still took around half of what I did on the first so took that as a good thing.
4) Entice people in with displays outside
If you're lucky enough to be able to showcase some of your products outside do it! As mentioned, day 1 I went for a simple clothes rail and the teepee and couldn't understand why people with babies and toddlers were taking a photo of the teepee then walking on. I'd made the mistake of putting my most expensive clothes line and item outside, 'ah great, another expensive baby shop' I can imagine people saying. Amsterdam has loads of those.
So again I switched this, I put out a small table with my more affordable monochrome clothes line, little cute shorts that retail at 8EUR, cool origami rompers and the teething necklaces which make great gifts for baby showers etc. It really worked! More and more people just 'popped in' after seeing these items and once they are in you get to chat about all the lovely things in life... mainly babies in my case.
5) Creating the right atmosphere
There is nothing worse that walking in to an empty silent store! I couldn't get the sound system working with my phone so my husband was on music duty. He wasn't there the whole time and so when the songs weren't playing you could feel the whole store change, it left an awkward vibe.
I'm also however not a fan of 'sales chat' luckily I have something in common with most of my potential customers and baby chat just flows but I chose more of a laid back approach. A simple hello when they entered and if baby chat happened so be it. I do think I could have been a little more chatty with customers but I'll try that next time.
6) Taking payments
I took the decision to not take cash, I find cash a pain to handle, I never put it in the bank and it removed the need to have a float and lots of change around. Instead I opted to sign up to iZettle and buy their payment system and dock. It worked brilliantly!! Took all major and minor bank card, no errors aside from when I accidentally keyed in 2,500 instead of 25 and the customer swiped their card!! That was stressful!
I'd say less than 5% of people asked initially to pay with cash but then were more than happy to use card when I explained it wasn't possible.
7) Setting up and closing down takes ages!
I massively underestimated how long this would take. I'd prepared all my products, had everything priced up, organised into bags and baskets for each display and it still took 4 hours to set up and 3 to pack away.
If you are planning to buy and take your own displays I recommend something simple and easy to assemble such as these Ikea shelves, they took us about 10 minutes per unit to assemble and cost only 25 EUR.
I also bought this from Ikea which was a little more expensive but worked perfectly for shoring and displaying small clothes.
8) Share the love! Invite other people to join you.
I decided along side trying this I wanted to both meet new people and also work with other mums who have similar interests and passions. So I invited another mum to join me on this adventure.
Via a shout out on Instagram I was lucky enough to meet the lovely Gisele from Umbrella Amarela. It was so nice to have someone to help out, chat to during the quiet times and share ideas with. There is definitely strength in numbers!
9) Expect to be exhausted
It's been a while since I did an 8 hour shift in a shop, plus 7 hours set up and close down then taking care of my baby and finding I can't sleep as my brain is racing with all the things that went well and what needs to change.
Prior to this I had a semi demanding job at a full service agency in London and then at Google here in Amsterdam and I can honestly say this was 10x more work...... Don't let it put you off but be prepared, babysitters, food stocked up at home and no social engagements will help. Do however ensure you have at least 1 bottle of beer or wine or any drink of your choice to have a small celebration at the end of the day, you'll have deserved it ;-)
10) Enjoy yourself and learn from your mistakes
I had a goal of breaking even with my first pop up, so long as I learnt something along the way I would see it as a success. I did slightly better than break even (taking into account hiring the space and buying the displays etc) but the learning process and meeting lots of lovely new people was for me far more valuable.
I totally plan on doing another pop up, weekend pop ups are intense so I may try and find a space where I can stay for a week or two but we'll have to see.
Regardless I'll be sure to share the experience and if you have any questions at all please do feel free to get in touch.