How to set up a pop-up shop (with 3 real-life examples)

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Pop-up shops are a useful tool to have in an entrepreneur's arsenal. They're the next step after a tried-and-tested idea, but still not as big of an investment as a fixed store. 

Plus, people love a good pop-up. When done well, a pop-up shop provides an immersive, almost exclusive, shopping experience where consumers can get a first-hand look at your product—and hopefully, share it with even more people.

If you think a pop-up shop would work for you but aren't sure how to get started, read on. Below, we give an overview of everything you need to know about setting up a pop-up shop. Plus, we'll look at a few well-known examples and what made them successful.

What is a pop-up shop?

The idea behind pop-up shops (also called pop-up retail or pop-up events) has actually been around for a while. Holiday fairs, industry expos, farmer's markets—these are all different versions of a pop-up shop. 

Simply put, a pop-up shop is a temporary retail space. They're typically put up as a way to test out a new idea, generate buzz for a business, or allow an ecommerce business to interact with customers in real life. 

Aside from these common end goals, a pop-up shop can take on almost any shape or form. While some look just like regular retail stores, many business owners take the opportunity to create a memorable, one-of-a-kind environment. 

To date, pop-up shops have appeared in both vacant storefronts, existing retail establishments (a store in a store), booths, outdoor areas, and even mobile trucks and vans. 

And they don't necessarily have to sell traditional products either. A pop-up can sell food, drinks, services, even hospitality.

While one can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days or weeks, pop-up shops are small-scale efforts with significant effects. The entire pop-up industry is currently estimated at $50 billion total.

Pop-up shops offer everything today's customer looks for in retail—exclusivity, experience, disruption, and best of all, something worth sharing on social media.

5 steps to setting up a pop-up shop

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Unlike a fixed retail store, a pop-up shop requires much less to set up. Some creatively displayed merchandise, friendly staff, and the right music can be enough. Of course, it can also be extremely extravagant, requiring significant amounts of work and investment.

Regardless of how big or small of a concept you have in mind, there are a few key actions you need to take when planning the perfect pop-up shop.

Decide what type of pop-up shop you want 

In many ways, a pop-up is more of an event than it is a store. So, rather than thinking of what type of pop-up you'd like to establish and own, it's better to think of the type of pop-up you want to host. 

Start by defining why you want to have a pop-up shop in the first place, as well as your key metrics for success (i.e., earn $10,000 in sales, reach 200 new customers, etc.). Then, consider what will attract people to your pop-up, how to keep them engaged, and what will be the best way to showcase your product and deliver a memorable brand experience. 

Look for the ideal location for your pop-up shop 

A good location is one of the most important factors in the success of a pop-up. With limited time to capture your customers, you want to make sure you get the most from your selected space. 

It's important for a pop-up shop to be in a place with high foot traffic that can be easily accessed. To narrow down your options, consider where your target market tends to go and which places they frequent. Do they live in certain neighborhoods? Are they often at the mall? To help you find a short-term retail location, you can check out We Are Pop Up, Peerspace, or Storefront. 

Figure out specifics and costs

Once you have a set location in mind, you can start ironing out your ideas and figuring out costs. A good approach is to visualize how your pop-up will play out and write down every detail, together with its projected cost. Some common items include: 

  • Rental costs
  • Permits 
  • Utilities
  • Inventory 
  • Packaging
  • Furniture and fixtures
  • Staff salaries
  • Point of Sale (POS) system
  • Marketing materials
  • Giveaways

With a checklist in hand, you'll have a better idea of the total budget and whether or not you'll be able to recoup the expenses. It's also easier to pinpoint items that can be rented or borrowed, or might not be needed at all.

Set up your pop-up shop

When the day comes to set up your pop-up shop, it's important to make sure your merchandise is properly displayed and the area is attractive to visitors. Have some essential tools (i.e., scissors, tape, batteries) on hand to deal with any last minute details, and make sure to test out the POS system. After everything is picture perfect, make sure to take photos, reach out to influencers and followers, and spread the news about your limited-time pop-up shop. 

Close your pop-up shop

Perhaps even more important is what happens post pop-up. Make sure to dismantle all the decor and fixtures, clean up any debris, and leave the space as you found it. It's also a good idea to keep in touch with the establishment or real estate management in case you decide to host any future pop-ups. 

After closing the pop-up, it's time to do a post-mortem analysis. Collect your sales figures, customer feedback, and other key learnings. Analyze the results of the pop-up shop against the key metrics you defined during the planning stage.

3 examples of successful pop-up shops 

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There are a lot of great pop-up examples to help you get started. Here are a few notable companies who've found success hosting a pop-up shop. 

Kylie Cosmetics

Kylie Cosmetics is the perfect example of a successful ecommerce business that still engages in physical pop-up shops. Although the products are now available through select retailers, Kylie Cosmetics was an online only operation when it opened seven pop-up shops in Topshops across the U.S. in 2017. Opening for five weeks during the height of the holiday season, the Kyle Cosmetic pop-up shops attracted massive amounts of people and press.

Key Takeaway: Kylie Cosmetics' first pop-up was two years after the company launched, which was enough time to build a strong following for the brand. Partnering with Topshop, another strong retail partner with the same target market, helped with general setup and made it easy for consumers to visit the pop-up. In addition, the pop-up shop also introduced two lip kits developed exclusively for the event and created a strong sense of urgency among consumers.

Magnum Ice Cream

Rather than a regular ice cream parlor, Magnum invites people to play with their food in their seasonal pop-up store. Of course, Magnum Ice Cream can always be purchased in a grocery store, corner deli, or even an ice cream truck. But in their annual pop-up store, you can build your own bar with different dips, drizzles, and over 200,000 possible combinations. The famed ice cream pop-up also has decadent decor and special seasonal treats. 

Key Takeaway: Not only is this the pop-up of dreams, the beauty of this Magnum concept is it shares a peek into their process. Customers are able to see the high quality ingredients and care that goes into each bar. Plus, by allowing people to create their own concoctions, Magnum's pop-up store provides a completely engaging experience with highly Instagrammable content. 


As one of the many new bed-in-a-box brands, Leesa is an online mattress company in a very competitive industry. When it decided to launch its first pop-up in 2014, the company played to its strengths—it relied on customer data. The choice of location (New York City) and product selection (more organic material) were all made using what Leesa already knew from its customers. Another top request was for a more social component, which Leesa readily answered by donating one mattress to a homeless shelter for every 10 sold during the pop-up. 

Key Takeaway: Launching a pop-up space is a smart way to differentiate a company in a competitive space, especially with a product as tactile as a mattress. By listening to their customers, Leesa was able to maximize their efforts and deliver a pop-up experience they know would be welcomed. Committing to donate to a charity also helped tie their company's sales to a worthy social cause.

Profiting with a pop-up shop

No matter the type of business, a pop-up shop can provide a number of benefits. For consumers, it's an exciting opportunity to get a closer look at a new product or brand they find interesting.

For business owners and marketers, a pop-up shop is a low cost, low commitment way of exploring offline sales, promoting a new product or service, and building stronger brand awareness.

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