Since the retail apocalypse of 2010 when many North American brick-and-mortar stores closed their doors, retailers have been looking for alternative ways to sell merchandise. And, even though online seemed to be the new way to go, some retailers didn’t want to reject the concept of physical stores entirely.

Enter pop-up shops. These temporary stores are a great middle-ground between physical and digital. They offer consumers all the benefits of traditional brick-and-mortar stores, but for a limited time.

Pop-up shops have now become a $50 billion industry, proving that they are, in fact, a profitable retail strategy. Now the question is, can you open a pop-up store anywhere? More specifically, can you open one in your town? Keep reading as we explain how to assess your small town to see if it’s fit for flash retailing.

Is Your Town Fit For a Pop-up Store?

You are probably already familiar with the three rules of real estate: location, location, location. So, it should come as no surprise that these rules also apply when it comes to running a successful business. To help you determine if your small town is an ideal location for a pop-up store, start by asking yourself these five basic — yet fundamental — questions: who, what, where, when, and why?

Who will you be selling to?

It’s important to confirm that the town’s population aligns with your target audience. Conduct some research to uncover key demographic characteristics, including age groups, income, gender, occupations, etc.

As a resident, you may be inclined to disregard the research process since you’re familiar with the people and the place. However, it’s crucial that you base business decisions on hard facts and not assumptions.

Elderly Couple Eating at Christmas Market
Who is your ideal customer?

What will you be selling?

You want to ensure that your products will attract local shoppers. And again, even though you are a resident yourself, you don’t want to make generalizations about the town without concrete facts to back it up.

So, take yourself out of the equation and assess the area as you would a place you’ve never visited before. Walk around the town, visit other retail stores, communicate with residents, etc. This will help you verify that a need for your product actually exists.

Where should you set up a shop?

Scope the town to see what options you have available in terms of short-term leases. Here is a list of the common places that entrepreneurs will rent from:

  • Vacant storefronts
  • Kiosks or booths within shopping malls
  • Pop-in stores (a pop-up shop within an established retail store)
  • Gallery or event spaces

The key is to choose a spot that has high foot traffic, located close to where your target audience shops, yet doesn’t have too many competitors nearby. Even though you are familiar with the area, it’s recommended to sit down with a local real estate agent as they can help identify all the optimal spots available for rent as well as organize on-site visits.

When should your pop-up store be open?

The first step is to determine what time during the year makes the most sense for your business. For instance, a Christmas-themed shop should ideally open November through December, whereas a smoothie stand may choose to operate during the summer months.

Next, you have to decide how long to stay open for. Pop-up shops can last anywhere from three days to three months depending on your business strategy. Some retailers choose to open up seasonally in the same town every time, while others will visit multiple cities a few days at a time for a given period. And of course, you need to also consider your budget and calculate how long can you afford to stay open given utility bills and operational costs.

Finally, it’s also important to consider your town’s local events and festivals occurring at the time you plan to be open. You may be able to piggy-back off the success of certain events since they typically bring in more foot-traffic, publicity and media, and consumer spending. So, plan your opening hours accordingly.

Women hand using smartphone do online selling for people shopping online with chat box, cart, dollar icons pop up. Social media marketing concept.
How long will you keep your pop-up shop open?

Why are you choosing this town specifically?

Write down why you want to open a business in your hometown. Is it for the convenience of being close to home? Or is it to test your product before launching it to the broader market? Whatever the case may be, it’s important to understand if your decision is based upon emotion or strategy.

So, is your hometown fit for a pop-up store? If so, ask yourself the next biggest question: how? Take time to gather ample information on running a business and create a solid business plan and marketing strategy.