Part 3 - What no-one ever tells you about Shopping in a Popup
As we reach the conclusion of the popular BrandM.A.D.E. popup series, it’s only right to visit the experience from the shopper’s point of view. Even though popups are incredibly popular and what was once out of reach for many small brands is now an achievable short-term high street outlet, there is still a substantial element of the population unfamiliar with the terminology and what it actually means.
Next time you visit a popup store, regardless of whether you’re new to the experience or a savvy popup shopper, here are some fresh insights into what goes into this huge undertaking from the other side of the till.
The Popup Lowdown
Popup shops are becoming increasingly more professionally designed as the merchandising of the retail space gives the impression of a shop which is here to stay (and many popups stay beyond their initial contractual period). While many are so beautifully styled that they look as though they’ve come straight from a Pinterest inspiration board, others can look more simplistic. Regardless, remember that there is usually something to purchase at every price point and the products within may not necessarily be seen simply through the main window. It’s definitely worth walking through the doorway and not just surmising the average RRP in the shop through glancing at one or two pieces and a single price ticket. You could really miss out on something unique and individual if you just pass it by.
Sometimes popups have the ability to open to their own preferred times and in other locations they must adhere to set operating hours. If you discover that a popup is opening from late morning/lunchtime onwards or is closed for a few days in the week, it’s most likely due to smaller staff numbers or the location and it’s footfall dictating opening hours. If you want to drop in to purchase something and aren’t too sure of their operating hours then do yourself a favour and call, email or drop a social media message first to ensure that it isn’t a wasted journey. Sometimes people presume limited opening hours indicate a less professional outlet but that’s not the case; it’s most likely limited resources or a reflection of the footfall in that area.
Depending on the size of the company, a popup could be anything from a sole trader to a very established company looking to test a location before opening another permanent retail outlet. For these reasons you may notice variations in staffing numbers in each popup that you visit. You can quickly establish if it’s a tight team of colleagues building a business together or employed staff working for a head office but either way, you should expect the usual high quality service that you’d receive in any establishment.
If it is a very small company and you walk in to find them on their laptop or phone, drinking a coffee or eating a snack, don’t presume they’re skiving or being unprofessional as they are likely manning the store while simultaneously doing their desk job and are probably responding to emails, creating social media content and grabbing some food while they can. What they should never do though, is ignore you, regardless of whether it’s a tiny independent or larger business.
Stock levels can vary massively in popup stores and sometimes it’s a case of having to wait while they locate your selected size for you from their supplier. It’s also quite common to have a bespoke-made option (for dispatch or collection) and it’s worth remembering that some stock may be held on site but very rarely in large amounts, so a little patience is appreciated while they locate what you’re looking for. It’s can be convenient for an item not in stock to be purchased in the popup to then be dispatched to your chosen address as soon as it is ready (often being made to order especially for you) which is a lovely personalised touch that you don’t get in your average high street outlet.
Patience while purchasing
There are rarely multiple tills in popup stores, so patience is hugely appreciated by the team if you have to queue while each purchase is processed one at a time. We’re so used to multiple checkouts now but it’s similar to coffee shops in that one or two purchasers maximum can be dealt with at any one time.
Till systems in popups are amazingly advanced now and it’s rare that you’ll see an old fashioned till unit when an iPad and a wireless card reader can hook into the wifi and provide a safe and secure payment experience for any customer. Expect a receipt and don’t be afraid to ask for information on their returns procedure if you aren’t already made aware of this. Even if a popup store closes, you should still be able to to communicate with the company via their website and a returns procedure is required to be displayed online by every retailer.
Don’t be alarmed if there is a slow wifi signal and the sales assistant is having to take a bit longer than hoped while the payment processes. This is sometimes par for the course when using wireless technology and although it’s rare, it can happen and doesn’t mean there’s an issue. It’s just one of those things that occasionally happens and we’ve all experienced it with our mobile phones (always at the most inconvenient times!).
If you’re an international traveller they may not be able to provide you with VAT waiver documentation however you should be able to deal with this at the airport and if you have any queries about it you can visit the gov.uk page on tax and shopping.
So there you have it. The popup experience is here to stay and you might have visited more than you realise, as not every outlet makes it obvious that they’re only in that location for a limited time. As you know, it’s a buyer’s market, so you hold the utmost power at the end of the day and what many shoppers say they’re looking for in today’s crowded market place is a shopping experience that stands out, is of utmost quality and feels comfortable to purchase from.
Have you visited any popups recently that really stood out for you? Did they deliver something truly unique in comparison with their high street counterparts? Leave a comment or share your thoughts on a email to firstname.lastname@example.org