If you're not in a position to put down roots with a bricks-and-mortar retail store, setting up a temporary location (sometimes called a “pop-up” store) is a potential option. Whether you're planning to be in business for a single day or an entire season, it's important to have a clear goal in mind so that you choose the right location and tailor your processes accordingly.

Why set up a temporary retail store?

  • Test the viability of a specific location
  • Showcase a specialized or seasonal product
  • Create a buzz for your business before your permanent store opens
  • Interact with customers or test a new market
  • Liquidate overstocked merchandise

Your next step is to find a location. Pop-up stores can be in places like malls and galleries, on the street, at craft fairs and markets, even inside other stores. You may want to look online for organizations that help connect business owners with those who are looking to rent space. In some cases, these businesses may also provide insurance, support and promotion for your venture.

When it comes to renting space, you'll want to consider how much room you need, and what costs will be involved. Commercial leases vary; you may pay a flat fee or a percentage of sales. Many things that are normally included in a more permanent retail lease may not be available to a pop-up business.

You'll want to consider all costs like initial setup and tear-down, transportation and parking, electricity, Internet connection, point-of-sale equipment, employee wages, furniture rental, inventory storage, and, of course, your time. If the costs outweigh the benefits, you may want to hold off setting up your store.

Rental space and short-term leases can sometimes be hard to come by, and weather can be a factor if you are outdoors, or operating a seasonal business. Talk to other vendors, and do your research. Remember, you may have to adhere to certain bylaws or acquire additional permits or licences for a temporary location, especially if you operate on the street or the sidewalk, for example.

Focus on what is important. You want your space to be eye-catching, and your product to stand out. Plan ahead, and be sure to monitor your inventory so that you can maximize sales and reduce costs.

Once you're up and running, take advantage of social media to get the word out quickly and target your key market. If you're only around for a short time, you can use that sense of urgency to get customers to visit your shop before you're gone. If they like what they see, they'll be back next time!