Create a pop-up shop

Pop-up shops can add a bit of magic to an area. They’re also a good way to offer new, local businesses a shopfront for a limited period, as well as testing whether there’s local interest in having a community owned shop or a local meeting place.

You will need

  • An empty shop in a good location with lots of potential ‘customers’.
  • A trader’s permit if you’re selling anything — and permission from your local council.
  • A legal entity. That might be your community group (if it has a legal status) or parish council, or you might need to form a partnership with a local charity (which will also get an 80% reduction on the business rates).
  • A lease — if you’re only planning a short term consultation or a Christmas market then get a short lease or ask if you can sublet the space once you’ve finished with it.
  • Plenty of volunteers — even if it’s only open at weekends, very few people will be willing to spend every weekend there.
  • A manager — setting up the shop will probably require a committee, but it is easier to run it if you nominate someone to manage the rota and look after the keys (and have a spare set), even if they’re not on the premises every day.
  • Furniture — most empty shops have been stripped of their fixtures and fittings. Go for second hand and sell it off at the end of the lease.
  • Running water and electricity — they’re unlikely to be included in the lease.
  • A theme or purpose for the shop — keep it simple and you’ll get good word of mouth.
  • A grand opening – press coverage will really help get people in the door.


Decide on the purpose of your pop-up shop

It’s important to plan ahead as you may need licenses of various kinds. Remember, pop-up shops don’t have to be shops. They can be art galleries, cafés, or activity spaces, or just somewhere for your community to share plans and ideas.

Choose a name

Decide on a name and make it sound interesting and fun.

Make a list of empty shops

Draw up a list of empty shops in the neighbourhood and make a note of the letting agents in the window. If they’re not on a busy high street, stake them out for an hour or so one Saturday morning and see if there is much passing trade.

Find out the specifications

You need to know the square footage, facilities and estimates of any utilities and council tax you might have to pay, as well as the length of lease. Ask if the landlord is likely to consider a temporary usage for the shop. Landlords still have to pay business rates on empty properties, so you may be able to negotiate a reduction in that — or, better still, contact a local charity willing to work with you, because they are entitled to an 80% exemption on business rates.

Get a sign made

Get a sign made and put it in the window without obscuring what’s inside. Think about your window display and the items you use to attract people into your shop.

Make your shop welcoming

Make your shop welcoming and easy for people to walk around. Ensure wheelchairs can pass between the display units. Make it clear whether things are for sale or just ‘set dressing’.

Greet people

Greet people as they come through the door. ‘Hello’ is a great start, ‘What do you want?’ is not. Make sure all of your volunteers have good people skills

Add some music

Background music can help create an atmosphere but you will need a PPL licence to play it.

Run creative activities

Run creative activities, like Christmas decoration making or planting up hanging baskets, to entice people inside. Ask local groups such as the WI to help you run them.

Start a comments book

Whether your pop-up shop is intended to gather people’s views on a community-led initiative or just intended to give local businesses and creative types a temporary shopfront, this kind of information is essential market research. Get contact details too, if you can, in case you decide to do it again.

See how it's done

See how Junior Mtonga opened up a pop-up shop to help bring his community together.