Pop-up shops have become extremely popular over the last decade. They got their start as a way for e-commerce brands to test out brick-and-mortar opportunities. It didn’t take long for them to become a common strategy for most retailers to test out new experiences and locations.

While there are many locations to host a pop-up shop (like inside a vacant storefront), one of the easiest ways is to set one up in an outdoor area. Parks, waterfronts, parking lots, and other outdoor urban spaces are just a few examples of what’s possible.

Hosting outdoor pop-ups is a great idea for a number of reasons — especially in a post-COVID world where people are more concerned about confined spaces for their health and well-being.

If you’re interested in learning how to set up an outdoor pop-up shop, keep reading. This post outlines the steps you should take to ensure your initiatives are successful. 

Step 1: Determine your objectives.

When planning any kind of pop-up shop, you first need to determine your goal. For instance, are you interested in testing out a new location before setting up a permanent home? Do you want to test out new merchandise before taking it to your whole line?

An outdoor pop-up retail boutique inside a PODS container
A PODS container was used as a retail pop-up shop during a community outdoor shopping event for Small Business Saturday.

Your goal will determine whether or not a pop-up shop is a good idea and who your target audience is. For instance, testing new merchandise will mean you need to find a neighborhood or city where a high density of your target market lives.

Your objectives may align best with setting up a table at a local farmer’s market. Alternatively, it may make the most sense to rent a shipping container and set up something with a sturdier and semi-permanent structure.

Retail boutique owner Bev Norris, for instance, needed to rapidly set up a pop-up shop before the holidays when her brick-and-mortar store had burned down. She required a location that would provide her customers with the professional feel they associated with her indoor shop.

Bev chose to use a 16-foot all-steel commercial container from PODS to create an outdoor pop-up shop with an indoor feel for the event.

Step 2: Set a realistic budget.

When it comes to planning your outdoor pop-up shop, creating a budget is crucial. You’ll need to budget for:

  • Your location, which will include both the cost of the actual “store” (whether that be a tent, a trailer, a shipping container, etc.), as well as the cost for any permits or licenses you’ll require for setting up shop on a certain piece of land
  • Utilities such as power and internet
  • Salaries for your staff if you’ll be adding anyone new to man the pop-up shop
  • Additional technology you may need for your tech stack, like a mobile POS
  • Insurance (which may or may not be necessary depending on your pop-up shop structure)
  • Special marketing efforts you’ll put in for the shop specifically, such as paid digital ads or flyers
  • Decor or fixtures (for outdoor pop-up shops, this can include things like fans or space heaters to help improve the temperature)

Step 3: Find the right location.

The perfect location will depend on a number of different factors: your goals, target audience, budget, and what’s actually available. 

If you have a very specific audience in mind, you may need to find a spot in a neighborhood that containers your target demographic.

Get Joy, a dog food brand, wanted to target young professionals who own and spoil their dogs. As an alternative to a large pop-up shop space, the brand decided to set up a pop-up kiosk in the parking lot of a brewery in Nantucket at a popular spot for dog owners.

Get Joy team posing at its pop-up kiosk experience
(Source: Image via @getjoyfood)

Spend some time getting to know the city or town you want to launch a pop-up shop or experience in. Get a feel for what places are highly trafficked and by whom. Look into the permits required to set up in different places. 

Step 4: Set up your pop-up store. 

Once you’ve determined where your store is going to go and the general structure (whether it be a tent or a shipping container), it’s time to set up your store.

If you’re setting up a table at a local market, this may well require very little effort — just put up the table, set up your merchandise, and then sit back. 

Outdoor shipping container pop-up bar during covid
(Source: image via @theblockdistillingco)

If you’re working with something more complex, it may take a bigger time and financial investment. For instance, Block Distilling Company created an entirely outdoor restaurant using shipping containers during the pandemic. 

The shipping container setup cost the distillery around $30,000 and took around 4 hours to put together.

Step 5: Promote your pop-up shop to drive awareness and traffic. 

The next step to going live with your pop-up shop is to promote it for the objective of driving foot traffic. The best digital methods include location-based advertising on social media as well as email and social blasts announcing it to your audience.

However, if you are partnering with a local business (such as by using their parking lot, etc.), you should see if you can have them promote your temporary location to their audiences as well. 

Step 6: Measure your results. 

Once you’re open, it’s imperative that you measure the results of your pop-up shop. How many sales are you making? New customers or at least new email contacts? What’s your pop-up shop’s AOV — is it higher or lower than your other channels?

The answer to all these questions will help you determine if you’ve achieved your goal and if you should consider running another pop-up shop in the future.

Outdoor Pop-Up Shop Ideas With PODS

Looking to set up a pop-up shop of your own? Our shipping containers are durable and easy to set up for temporary retail needs. PODS containers are portable and can be placed outdoors with little clearance area, making them ideal for tight spaces and urban settings.

Woman standing at her outdoor popup shop PODS container at the Tampa Winter Village

With a PODS container as a structure for your outdoor pop-ups, you can effectively showcase merchandise and create compelling brand experiences. But keep in mind that the containers can also be used for on-site inventory storage if you’re tight on space at your pop-up shop.

Curious to learn more? Discover how we can help bring your pop-up shop to life by learning more about the pop-up retail solutions we offer.

Get Your Free Quote Today!

RELATED ARTICLE: Best Practices for Running a Successful Pop-up Booth at a Market

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