Small businesses pop up for the holidays

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NEW YORK — Here today, gone in weeks – pop-up shops and temporary stores are back for the holiday season.

At Christmas Lights Etc.’s Atlanta showroom, the public gets to shop for about a month-and-a-half, browsing the high-end Christmas trees, lighting and other holiday decorations. The yearly sale draws families from far and wide. Some drive five hours to see Christmas trees as tall as 25 feet (customers can order taller trees). Workers clean, freshen the paint and bring in new inventory for their holiday guests.

“If customers have a good experience here, like the product, like the people, they’ll come back next year when they need lights or a tree and they’ll recommend you to their friends,” says marketing director Hillary Zody.

The sale at Christmas Lights Etc., is one of many temporary stores that open during the holidays.

These shops, often called “pop-ups” sometimes produce extra income, but small business owners increasingly use them as promotional tools and test labs. Manufacturers, designers and online retailers use them to decide whether to open an actual store.

STARTUP STRATEGY

A pop-up store was part of the startup plan for Zady, an online clothing retailer. Owners Maxine Bedat and Soraya Darabi chose a location in the Delta Airlines terminal at New York’s LaGuardia Airport.

They wanted to get feedback about their merchandise, which includes $395 sweaters and $225 jeans.

“We have all sorts of metrics to see what customers are doing on the website, but nothing compares to actually seeing them interact with our products,” Bedat says.

VERIFYING INSTINCTS

Janet Holian opened a pop-up in Boston to see if Gemvara, her online custom jewelry business, would succeed with a physical location. “I wanted to see whether people needed to actually touch or feel the jewelry or meet us,” Holian says.

Her instincts were right.

Women want to see the merchandise.

Men want to be sure they’re buying from someone reputable.

BRAND BUILDING

Jeanne Chinn chose dog-friendly Century City Mall in Beverly Hills, Calif., for a kiosk for the upscale dog accessories she designs. Chinn, who sells carriers, coats, beds and toys to retailers and online, opened the kiosk Nov. 18.

“I’m trying to capture holiday sales and make people aware of the brand,” Chinn says.

TAKING TURNS

Retailers are rotating through pop-up shops at the Alki Arts Gallery in Seattle. Each week, nine merchants will set up shop. Susan Wheeler is selling antiques and vintage clothing this week. She’s hoping the pop-up will introduce her store, Susan Wheeler Home, to new customers.

Linda Walsh, who has owned Clementine since 2006, will run her temporary shop selling women’s clothes and accessories.

“It would be awesome if we bring in more revenue,” Walsh says. “I don’t expect it – I am doing it primarily for advertising and promotion.”

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