How to Communicate, Display, and Sell at a Pop Up Shop

aka Pop Up Show Tips and Tricks

by Jen Moulton

Moulton pop up at West Elm, December 2015

I do several pop ups per year as a jewelry business with a private studio but not a brick and mortar. I’m honored that Moulton has popped up at local boutiques like Kettle & Brine and Byron & Blue and national brands like Madewell and West Elm. Over time, I’ve learned lots of best practices, tips, and what not to do. I’ve collated all of my knowledge here to share as I wish I’d had this when I started out. Our best work comes from creating out of necessity, right?

The most important takeaway to start —

you will excel at pop ups or shows if you are genuinely interested in making real connections with shoppers.

Everyone can feel when someone is selling to them or only interested in making money — you will scare or repel people away with that tactic. It can be vulnerable to stand there with your work on display and essentially asking people to judge it by making a purchase or not. If you shift your focus to interacting and connecting then the vulnerable and egoic feelings are less likely to overwhelm you. And then you define success by the only thing you have control over — yourself.

Another way to look at it when you’re struggling — see it as market research. You get to watch what people touch, what they point and smile or laugh at, what they try on, what they ask about. And most importantly — you get feedback on who your ideal customer is. This is the best indicator to me of what customer favorites are, helps to guide me in production and what to highlight on social media, what to pitch to ambassadors/influencers, and/or do promotional sales. It is the single most helpful feedback I get on my work.


Let’s get to it! Here are my tips:

Set Up

  • Put newsletter sign up on the shopper’s right side of table along with a stack of business cards. For some reason most people start at the left side of your table and move right. Taking advantage of this tendency will get you the most newsletter sign ups. And for shy shoppers or people who aren’t interested in buying that day they might just make a beeline for your newsletter sign up and not say a word to you.
sidenote: I cannot stress the importance of newsletter sign ups enough. Even if 90% of people don’t buy from you at the pop up, having their email allows you to continue to reach out to them and persuade them to become your customer (maybe even repeat customer). A lot of people are conscious consumers and they may not buy outright and that’s totally okay. Meeting you in person and getting a feel for your work means they might make a purchase for a gift or during holiday season. Not to mention that being delivered directly to someone’s email inbox is the only method where you insert your information into their life — they have to seek you out on social media channels. Newsletter sign ups are gold.
  • It’s a good idea to put low priced item near the newsletter sign up and business card stack. Maybe you can place a group of samples or one offs that are discounted (and/or might be discontinued) or even just a lower priced item. Another way to grab them and get them to browse for a minute or two.
  • Here’s roughly my set up equation (this is secondary to aesthetics but I default to this): I like to place my expensive items in the back middle of the table. Intermediately priced objects go on the shoppers left. Low, entry level buy in items are front and center, closest to them — bonus points if they can sort through them. Intermediate items in shoppers back right corner. Discounted/OOAK/discontinued/low price item near newsletter sign up (front right, close to them).
Moulton show display / photo via Kettle & Brine

Display

  • Bring a mirror if you sell anything that they put on themselves (hair accessories, jewelry, pins, clothes, bags, etc.)
  • Keep scissors, tape, string, and paper (or index cards) in your pop up box. See below for my always packed pop up box.
  • Have dishes or bins in the front center to let people sort through while they browse and talk to you. It will help ease the awkwardness of the interaction (people don’t like shopping if they feel watched) and give them a reason to hang around for longer.
  • Use a variety of displays — keep in mind colors, textures and height.
  • Work on collecting interesting pieces for your display. In the beginning I did everything uniform (because I like symmetry aka I’m a perfectionist) but I’ve learned that pieces pop less when everything is the same. So I’ve worked on collecting interesting pieces (can be conversation starter!) like an antique cast iron mirror, dishes from anthropologie and thrift/vintage stores, linen flag with my logo that a local screen printer did, black aquarium sand in dishes to lay bracelets on top (makes them pop and people love sifting it while talking), etc. My current favorite display piece is a vintage brass longhorn name card holder that I found in Florence — what are the chances!

Interacting/Connection

  • Make sure to display some of your favorite work and/or work you’re really proud of to talk about with customers. This will come in handy with connecting and you’ll sometimes be asked your origin story and/or what you’re excited about. Think about it like this: everyone knows that artists are often discovering new things and incorporating new techniques into their work. A great way to connect is to be transparent and let people into your process. (A personal example: I took a ceramics class because I was interested in learning and thought I’d just make displays for shows. I ended up getting really into it and I love getting to talk about it with shoppers. And they think it’s really cool when they find out that I made the ring dishes.)
  • Have an elevator speech prepared if you’re nervous about talking to strangers. It really is up to you to engage and guide the conversation. This was so hard for me in the beginning but I’ve learned some tips:

> 1. Have your elevator speech prepared. Mine goes like this:

“Hi! How are you?/How’s your day going?” A minute later after finishing up how are yous: “Everything is handmade here in my Austin studio with my two hands, feel free to try anything on, and let me know if you have any questions!” And at same time or a minute or few minutes later: “There’s a pop up special today — you save 20% when you buy two or more things.”

> 2. Have a few questions ready to ask. I.e. “How’s your summer going?” “What do you have going on today?” “Do you live here in Austin?”

  • Don’t sit at your table, stand and preferably off to the side. I know it’s tempting to sit when it’s slow or your feet hurt but I guarantee you it will affect your sales. And standing off to the side is less intimidating for a customer to approach. Depends on set up but I usually stand off to my right side. (If you must sit, make sure it’s on a stool. No chairs.).

Sales

  • I’m not sure this needs to be said but I use a square reader at pop ups. I’ve used it since the beginning and am used to how it works. Plus now it’s everywhere so people are familiar and trust it. I’ve thought about using the quickbooks reader as that’s my accounting software but haven’t made the switch. (I would probably only switch if it helped keep up with inventory or there was another incentive).
  • I generally don’t keep a cash bank on me. Most people make purchases with a debit card regardless of the price and I usually forget to bring one. That said, if someone wants to pay with cash then I do my best to round with what they have (and usually forfeit a few dollars because I can’t make change. Never more than $4).
  • Consider offering promotions. One that works well for me is 20% off when you buy two or more things. It incentives spending extra and people feel like they’re getting a good deal. It’s fun all around — higher sales and happier customers. Also promotes a giving mentality, i.e. they wanted one for themselves and then grabbed another for their sister/friend.

Practical Tips

  • Variety of prices. Make sure to have one entry level item and a variety of prices from there. This varies depending on your goods but for me this shakes out to: one style that’s $30 and then goods that range from $40-$250 or so. This allows shoppers a low buy in if they’re a fan of you/your work but can’t afford or don’t want to make a significant investment. On the other end, shoppers are sometimes looking for investment pieces or they have restrictions on what they can wear (i.e. they need to wear karat gold) in which case they’re prepared to make a more significant investment and you have made that possible for them!
  • I often get asked how to get in touch with owners/events person at a store. My best advice is this: connect to the owner and/or events person by supporting them first — cold pitches can be hard (for me at least). Better yet, have someone introduce you — that connection will be stronger and also make you more comfortable. If you don’t have someone in common, support them first. Be their customer. After you’ve shown your support ask them if they ever collaborate with small brands and express your interest. Then let it be. Put it out into the universe but don’t be overwhelming or pushy. A genuine connection will be much more successful than a forced one.
Moulton pop up, February 2016
  • If you’re slow, keep busy by rearranging and straightening the table. Things get moved around and messy so it’s important to keep up with in general. Also, most people won’t approach you if you’re standing there starting at them and/or on your phone
  • People are attracted to your table when there’s a few people around because it’s less pressure on them and I think there’s a psychological component to it. This is another reason why it’s a good idea to have a few things to sort through in the front center (for me it’s a few dishes with an assortment of rings). People can talk to their friends, browse, try things on, ask questions and people will keep coming up.
  • Plan to know what you’ll say if someone asks for an additional discount. People will try to haggle, don’t get offended. Just know how you want to approach it.
  • It’s okay to have staff on hand to help but it’s really best for the owner to be there too. Customers are interested in the origin story, your passion, connecting with you, and being a proud ambassador of your work. This is where you can create true fans. Ideally you’d be there doing the meet and greet and then have someone help with sales and packing orders up.

I keep a box permanently packed for pop ups so when it’s time to do a pop up I only need to pack the goods for sale. Here’s a list of what I include:

  • flat displays
  • cedar blocks to elevate pieces
  • a mirror
  • an assortment of dishes and trays
  • black aquarium sand
  • scissors and tape
  • pen and paper (or index cards — better weight)
  • packaging (jewelry boxes, tissue paper, shopping bags, etc.)
  • notebook to collect newsletter sign ups
  • table cloth
  • business cards
  • sign with your logo (I use screen printed flag, in the past I’ve used a piece of wood with my logo laser burned)
  • price tags — I’ve tried them all and I like these a lot
  • a table (here’s my favorite table and legs — it’s heavy to schlep around but looks really modern and expensive). A folding table is much easier but doesn’t look as good!

I think that’s it! I’ve covered everything I can think of. Still have a question? Ask me in the comments!

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First published on www.jenmoulton.com on August 1, 2016.

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Jen is the owner and designer of Moulton. Keep up on instagram or through her personal newsletter.