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Exploring Pop-Up Opportunities

In May 2022, the Creative Fuse team at Newcastle University partnered with some of our colleagues in Newcastle University Business School and four local creative businesses to deliver a programme of interactive workshops alongside an exciting pop-up retail event. Below, Dr Lauren Baker describes some of the key takeaways from this programme.

A pop-up has been defined as ‘a temporary shop, stall or brand experience used to sell goods and services for a limited period of time” (Centre for Economic and Business Research, 2014). The Pop-up Primer was designed to develop the retail skills of local creative businesses to help them learn more about incorporating the pop-up format into their retail activities, and develop some of the unique skills that can help make pop-up retail a success. Ahead of the in-person workshops and retail event was a virtual marketing workshop, where Corinne Lewis-Ward of Powder Butterfly led participants through the process of creating a promotional flyer, and using social media to promote a pop-up event.

Hosted at Sook, a pop-up retail space in Gateshead’s Metrocentre, the launch event was a spectacular night of music, fizz, and canapes, inviting visitors inside to see the space, meet the programme team and retailers, and buy unique gifts and homewares. The electric atmosphere was the perfect start to the busy programme, allowing the workshop participants an opportunity to meet in-person, share the flyers made earlier in the week, promote their business, and get a feel for launching a pop-up event. The following day, the 12 workshop participants came together to take part in an intensive day of workshops on product photography led by the wonderful Sue Todd, and visual merchandising by Ann English. Hosting these workshops in the pop-up space meant the participants were able to apply a lot of their learning in real time and see how to best put it in to practice. Alongside this event and set of workshops, the programme also delivered two sets of unique research insights.

The first piece of research was a survey of retailers, exploring their thoughts and feelings around the use of a pop-up format. A key takeaway from this survey of 47 creative businesses were the benefits of pop-ups, such as the potential it held for building customer relationships, as well as generating sales and increasing brand awareness. However, there were barriers too, including the time commitment needed to participate, the financial cost of taking up such an opportunity, and the quality of the location of a pop-up  – particularly that there might be a lack of footfall. It was some of these issues the workshops sought to address, including creating enticing photography that could be used for promotion, social media, and signage to draw customers in. It also provided a lot of valuable insights to help us deliver future pop-up events and workshops.

The second piece of research was a consumer survey, gathered during the pop-up event. Major take away from this was the desire for consumers to access a wide range of retailers through pop-up events, and that they were really keen to have more opportunities to shop with local, independent makers and retailers. That’s a very positive sign for the future of pop-up retail on our high streets, and offers us and the retailers we work with motivation to continue exploring pop-up as an exciting option to meet new audiences, build connection, and promote local creative businesses.