The pop-up store experience #1

So I promised a report from the Design Market I attended a couple of weeks ago (eek, is it really that long already?). Well time flies when you’re having fun and when you are totally up to your ears busy. Right after the market I've been working on getting my portfolio out there, getting the next Skillshare class closer to publish at the same time as I got a commission for a logo. But here it is, a quick report about my first pop-up store experience. 

Well, I can tell you that my experience with the Design Market was a bit dual.

 Blurry image of my table the first day. I rearranged things a million times before the weekend was over.

Blurry image of my table the first day. I rearranged things a million times before the weekend was over.

Ok, I admit it, even though I tried not to, I did have high expectations. In a flash of hybris a thought of the possibility that I might sell out - clean the table completely - did cross my mind as (please don’t laugh, I’m spilling my naive guts here). Well, I didn’t. I sold a handful of patterned Bear Bell stuff. I did talk to a looooot of people visiting my table and had a really good time doing that. I handed out tons of business cards to people who wanted to ”think about it” and/or visit my web shop later. But didn’t sell nearly as much as I had hoped. What did I know…

So even if I knew that clean the table fantasy wasn't realistic I did think I would sell more. I did. I was a little bit disappointed. Yep. That’s the truth and one side of the duality. Not much selling. Not much value generating, money wise that is. My lovely market neighbors though… I need to stop and stay at that topic a while first before I go on.

My table neighbors. Now we’re talking value. And the other side of the dual experience. There was so much creativity and talent in that little room I can hardly take it. It felt like I had colleagues again. And it was wonderful. During the two days we were there we got to know each other a little bit. We helped each other guarding our tables if someone had to run an errand, we fetched coffee, hot dogs, lended bananas and shared iZettles and chatted about high and low. My table neighbors were the greatest value that I got from this market experience. No doubt. (I think they would have been even if I had sold out too). So here’s to you, my Design Market colleagues for being such great table neighbors and taking me under your wings a bit (they were Design Market veterans compared to me) and getting me some value for my invested time and money: Ditte & Sofia at Ditte Illustration, Erika at Skärså Glashyttan, Anna at A Grape Design, Imiform and AH Pewter Design.

So Design Market. To sum it up:

Sales. Not so good. But, it was a great learning experience and one thing I did especially learn was that I need to do more of these pop-up stores, get out there, meet my customers and do the job. Perhaps they need to get to know me a bit more, see me here and there around the markets and pop-ups of Stockholm. (I’m an optimistic person, can you tell?). It also gave me a small insight (very small) into what will sell and what will not.

Visitors. This was my first time there so I had no references to prior markets about the flow of visitors. But according to different sources it was about the same as other markets. The visitors didn’t buy as much as other occasions though. This was a general observation. And that’s what I was noticing too. The big majority browsed the halls and looked, but didn't buy.

Location. Färgfabriken where the market was located this time is a large art hall with two buildings in Liljeholmen - an area of Stockholm that's a bit off honestly, but it has a great atmosphere and facilities. My table was located in the side building, a great place but had less visitors than the main building. A lot of people did't find us, didn't even know there was another building. So we heard. Signs, more information or even bouncers to usher the visitors to us would have been great and might have made a bit difference.

The displays. Included in the exhibition fee was a table and a chair. So the area at hand was basic and limited but some of us had a wall behind us to use as well, which is something I'll make more use of next time. When it comes to my my display I was very content. I had made a lot of preparations before to be sure to have everything I needed in place. I've made a checklist below.

Marketing. My own marketing was a bit tentative. I did a Facebook and Instagram ad but it’s hard to tell if it helped at all. Facebook ads are completely useless in general I think. I posted about the market a few times in my social media too, but only got a couple of visitors I knew. Thank you so much for stopping by my table Fossan Design, Tisericsdotter and Kjell! Your support meant a lot!

Pricing. The fee for attending the market was a bit high I think considering what was included and the no of visitors. But I totally understand that there are costs involved in arranging events like this. Still, I just barely broke even.
Now about my own pricing. This one’s difficult. It’s design products, not any mass-produced stuff made in China, so naturally it should be higher priced than in regular stores. But what is too high? You don’t want it to be a deal breaker either. You want to sell. But not too cheap or you'll lessen the perceived value of your products or not charge for all the time you've put in making the products. As I said, this is difficult and I don’t have an answer, yet. But I do know this: I probably won’t sell less if I lower the price a liiiittle bit. And a small profit is larger than zero profit. Duh!

If you consider attending a pop-up shop or market or similar for the first time, here are some of my advices based on this single experience:

1) Lower your sales expectations. Perhaps you’ll be a knock-out the first time, or maybe you wont. If you don’t - see it as a great learning experience. I’m thinking that I might have to do this - attending several pop-ups, improving my product line, display, sales talk and conversion tricks - a few times before it starts moving as I want it to.

2) Be prepared, make sure you have all the equipment needed to make sure that there won’t be any hinders for conversion - like offering different ways to charge, or price tags, bags and flyers/business cards. See the checklist below. But remember to keep your costs as low as you can, or they will just eat your profit.

3) Spread the word. Spam your friends and family and make them come visit you. Any support, and people hanging around your table looking immensely interested is great. Create ads on social media if you think it will work for you, but be sure to keep your costs as low as you can, and be sure to have a super clear message of why people should come there. What's in it for them. A fun family excursion, exclusive design products and opportunities, offers etc etc.

4) Bring your own water, food, coffee and snacks. You won't have to leave your table to get something to eat, you can eat whenever there is no visitors at your table, you don’t have to spend you're money on expensive and boring cafeteria food (you want to keep your costs as low as possible). And you can share some fika with your table neighbors.

And the conclusion? Overall, it was a great experience that I think is necessary before exhibiting at the larger fairs, like Formex and such.  And I will do it again. As a matter of fact I will be attending two Christmas markets in December: 

2 DECEMBER

"EN EKO-REKO-RETRO-JUL" a Christmas market in Täby Park

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9-10 DECEMBER (Saturday-Sunday).

DesignMarknad Sthlm at Färgfabriken in Liljeholmen (same as last time).

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Hope to see you there!

My pop-up store checklist:

1) Register. Way ahead and don't do it in the last minute and risk not to get a spot. Make sure to have all deadline information and pay the fee on time to claim your spot.

2) Make/order products. Decide what products you want to bring and that you have enough time to make/order them. 

3) Displays. Plan your table (and walls etc). What will make a good professional impression? I made a blueprint of my table to make sure everything would fit and look good, which made me understand I needed some stands for my clogs, pillows and trays as well as baskets for fabric, art prints and greeting cards. My husband build two for me and then I used a table easel I had from before.

4) Branding. How can you make your brand clear and distinct? Signs are good. Either make one yourself or order one from printers. Vista Print has pretty good prices.

5) Table cloth. If you have a table at hand you want to cover it with something. A bed sheet works great. I used a dark navy bed sheet instead of a standard white one which was one of the brand colors I chose for the display as well.

6) Price tags/signs. I think the signs I used were too big. They made the overall impression a bit messy and also, it can actually make the visitor decide to quickly that it's not for them. They see the prices, without exploring and checking out your products first, and base their interest or non-interest on the price level. So my advice is to exclude the price tags completely, make it a reason to start chatting with you. Or, if you do want price tags, make them small. Small simple white stickers with your hand writing will do just fine.

7) Lighting. You might need additional lightning to highlight and put the spotlight on your products, make them look like jewels or pieces of art. Light is everything. I bought basic spotlights at a hardware store. They had clamps so I could easily attach them to my display stands.

8) Extension cords. You will need electricity and to make sure you have it close bring your own just in case. Make sure you have enough for all your chargers and lamps.

9) Swish. Here in Sweden something called Swish has been a revolution when it comes to easy payment. Make sure to have that.

10) iZettle or similar. To enable credit cards etc. iZettle is useful as a cash register too. 

11) Bags. If someone buys something it's always good to provide them with a bag to carry it in. I ordered very basic, unbranded paper bags. The minimum order was 250 pc but I hope to get to use them all in the future (that optimism again). A tip I got from my table neighbor was to get a stamp with your logo etc, to stamp and brand the paper bags. Very smart. I'll be ordering a stamp really soon.

12) Packaging. How should your products be packaged? Find your answer to that question way ahead of time and get all the materials you need. Plastic bags, clear bags, envelopes, cardboard, sleeves, stickers etc.

13) Logistics. How will you transport all your products and equipment? Perhaps you need boxes and large bags. Gather and borrow.

14) Business cards or flyers. To hand out. Make sure you have all your contacts and URLs in place.

15) Website. Update your website to make sure any market visitors who are interested in you will be taken care of when they visit you online.

And a last tip, a repetition of what I've mentioned before. Keep your costs down. There will be costs attached to attending a pop-up, but you can make/do a lot of the preparations yourself without paying a lot. 

If you have any questions you are so welcome to email me and I'll try to help you in any way I can.

/Bärbel