Pop-up shops are temporary outlets, which allow brands to have a presence on the high street, or to extend their existing offline presence into new areas for a short time.

They have been used by a number of brands and retailers over the last few years, sometimes for experiential marketing, other times as a direct sales channel.

While brands like lastminute.com have used them to promote campiagns, others, such as eBay, have used pop-up shops as a direct sales channel.

The online auction giant opened a temporary store near Oxford Street in the run up to Christmas 2011, selling items via QR code displays.

In this extract from our How the Internet Can Save the High Street report, I'll look at the pros and cons of pop-up shops...

Why use pop-up shops?

Here are just a few reasons:

  • Brand. Pop-ups allow you to extend your brand into the offline world, helping to put a face (or faces) to your online brand name. There is also scope to grow brand awareness.
  • Sales. You don’t have to sell anything, but you can if you want to. Some pop-ups are geared up to drive sales and can benefit from scarcity (of time / products) to drive demand.

    You can sell offline in the store itself or online, by allowing shoppers to access your website from within the store. Help them with walkthroughs and suggestions.

  • Buzz. Pop-ups can generate heaps of buzz from the crowd and the media. It’s the nature of the beast: the fact that they’re here today and (possibly) gone tomorrow means that there’s a short window of opportunity for people to talk about what you’re doing.

    By interacting with shoppers face-to-face you encourage them to talk about it to their friends and colleagues, and spread the noise via Twitter / Facebook etc. It makes for rapid - and relatively controlled - viral activity.

  • PR. The media loves to write about this kind of thing. The chances are that your competitors haven’t yet launched a pop-up so why not do it first? You should be able to attract journalists to visit and / or write about the store.

    It’s a good chance to network with the media, so don’t forget to send those invitations to your launch party!

  • SEO. Buzz generates links, which help increase search rankings.
  • Love your customers. Pop-ups allow you to get up close and personal with your customers. Make them feel special. Think about giveaways, goodie bags, competitions and special offers (all useful for your pre-launch marketing efforts).

    Your customers will love you for it, and it gives them a reason to visit the new store.

  • Low rents. The fallout from the recession is that many retail outlets are now vacant. Rental rates have fallen dramatically and landlords are more open to short-term projects / leases.
  • Offload stock. A pop-up store can be a great way of shifting end-of-season stock, especially if positioned as a time-limited sale with a finite amount of bargains.

    You can also run specific offers and tie-ins with product manufacturers / brands to move stock fast.

  • Product development and pre-launches. What’s the best way of determining whether or not a product will sell? How can you attract the right kind of customer feedback to help improve products?

    Pop-ups can support product development and can help you gauge the market reaction to new launches.

  • Video testimonials. Use this opportunity to film the good things your customers will be saying about your brand. Handing out a glass of champagne prior to filming works wonders.

    Use the video on your website to add depth, trust and credibility.

Examples of pop-up stores


The retailer set up pop-up stores in Paddington and Waterloo train stations in December 2011, offering time-poor consumers the chance to scan Christmas gift ideas using their mobiles and reserve for collection from an Argos store.


In 2011, Debenhams launched the UK’s first virtual pop-up stores at different locations around the country.

People were encouraged to visit famous landmarks, including London’s Trafalgar Square and Glasgow’s George Square and look at the location using their iPad or iPhone. If the user is not in the right location, a counter tells them how far away the zone is and the view button on the app will display a map.

Shoppers could then view 10 party dresses that were only available at that specific location, try them on using augmented reality technology, purchase the item and get it delivered to a location of their choice.

Shoppers at each location also received an exclusive 20% discount. An additional feature of the virtual pop-up store was that shoppers could upload pictures of the virtual outfits that they tried on, and share this with friends on Facebook or Twitter. 


Uniqlo recently set up a pop-up store in London'd Kingsland Road. This was aimed less at selling clothes, more at creating a buzz through the experience. 

The UT-LON pop-up featured art, music and clothing, and lasted for two weeks in April this year. 


The fashion retailer created a pop-up 'window shops' last year in London and New York to coincide with the launch of Vogue's Fashion Night Out. 

Visitors could download apps in advance and use them to scan the digital window displays and make a purchase. 

Graham Charlton

Published 25 June, 2013 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

You might be interested in

Comments (6)

Save or Cancel


I like Debenhams' idea of setting up a virtual Pop-up store, but how did they get the consumers to find it without a physical presence?

about 5 years ago


Joe Bush

Az - I believe they announced online which famous landmarks had been chosen for the augmented reality and then the app indicates how far from the spot they are. Great idea.

I love the idea of pop up shops. When done right they can have a great impact through a form of "disruption" followed by buzz as the news spreads.

Not so keen on the "pop up shops" operated by certain tv/breakdown/various other services. Unimaginative and disruptive in the wrong way. Surely there is room for improvement here?

about 5 years ago


David Boland

I think what retailers need, especially during a financial crisis, is innovative ideas. Loved the Debenhams idea, so creative. Thank you for a very interesting article!

about 5 years ago


Allan lloyd

Although the concept of pop up store as described offers a progressive and engaging take for marketing, brand awareness and a fresh approach to in store sales, it should not be confused with the wider philosophy of the pop up store.

Pop up stores are often, if not mostly, a mechanism for Landlords to repeat the business rate holiday afforded to them during the first 3 months the property becomes vacant. As such, the 'offer' of pop up stores is often below par for the overall tone of a given street or area (there are an increasing number of poor quality Tenant requirements coming to market in this area), which may negatively effect the consumers mind set. Basically, there are 2 different concepts here, and caution should be used not to confuse the two.

about 5 years ago

Pedro Pereira

Pedro Pereira, Marketing Manager at Forward Partners

There are currently 3 big platforms (think Airbnb for shops) that allow you to book pop up shops. www.AppearHere.co.uk and We Are Popup for the UK and Storefront for the US.

over 4 years ago


poul olat, pr at Bzlet

Pop-up market sales in the uk is estimate in 2013 as 8 billion. And estimate to grow %8 in 2014.
According to the uk telegraph.
book and list you pop-up shop at www.bzlet.com

almost 4 years ago

Save or Cancel

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Digital Pulse newsletter. You will receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.