Here’s a scenario for you to ponder.
You have a highly successful online store, a loyal community of customers in love with your brand, an audience of fans on popular social networks, and a question lurking in the back of your mind:
You’ve dominated the digital realm, now it’s time to start thinking about extending your reach into the world of real-life physical retail. Or even if you haven't, it's never a bad idea to have more than one sales channels for your products. However, I can already imagine the grimace on your face, the look of fear at the cost of doing such an unfathomable act that will have you paying rent, competing with big box retailers, and installing security cameras to protect your inventory.
But before you get too ahead of yourself, what I’m really alluding to is testing the waters by considering opening up a pop up store. That’s right, a temporary setting which could last for a day or up to as much as three months, where you can sell your products without the headache of committing to a lease, managing swarms of employees, or thinking about how to consistently drive loads of foot traffic to your doorstep.
The first rule of selling in a physical retail environment is the good old saying, it’s all about “location, location, location,” and that’s precisely what this post will look to cover. By the end, you’ll have plenty of location ideas to consider when you’re ready to take that step and start selling offline.
1. A Store-Within-a-Store
Take a good look at your products and the customers you sell to and make a list of all the small businesses or boutique retail stores who you think would make excellent partners. Approach them with a simple pitch, you’ll help offset one of their biggest expenses, rent, in return for some shelf or counter space. Obviously, you’ll want to find stores that sell complementary products, not necessarily competing products. For example, if you sell handbags, you could scout a women’s apparel store that doesn’t carry it’s own line.
The benefits of this scenario are plenty, you typically get move-in ready space that requires minimal setting up while getting access to the store’s existing foot traffic. Meanwhile, the existing store owner will save on rent while generating new foot traffic from the the buzz you help create.
2. Gallery or Event Space
Not only will these spaces be aesthetically pleasing to the senses, more often than not, you be sure they’re well seasoned when it comes to small business owners opening a pop up store. That means you get access to their weathered list of do’s and don’ts, in addition to a network of other pop up store owners who’ll be more than happy to share their lessons learned.
You might even be able to hold parties or cocktail hours for your best customers. If you’re lucky, you’ll also be able to better plan your venture into analog selling by being able to book in advance, however, you’ll want to keep your eyes out on prime-time dates for your target market.
3. Farmer’s Markets
You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t love farmer’s market. In fact, you’d know if you’ve been to any that it’s probably one of those rare public occasions where you’d find so many people relaxed, chatting, and smiling while shopping.
A few things to consider before setting up shop at your local farmer’s market is to check their vendor requirements and what kind of commitment they require. It’s also a good idea to speak with some of the existing vendors, especially if you know any personally, about their experience and what they’d recommend for getting started.
4. Art and Craft Fairs
They go by many names, festivals, fairs, or marketplaces, these events can be a great avenue to explore when setting off on selling in the physical world. Not only are they visited by people who love and adore boutique, unique, and personalized apparel, accessories, and crafts that small business owners like you sell, they love the idea of supporting grassroots and local companies.
Again, you’ll probably want to gander at the website to obtain all the logistical details upfront, such as the cost, commitment, and spots available. You’ll probably want to take advantage of their first-come, first serve policy when it comes to booth placement to secure a high-traffic spot in addition to chatting with vendors who go every year and what their experience has been.
5. Other Mass Gatherings
Maybe the crowd you’re targeting doesn’t frequent local art and craft fairs. Based on your knowledge of your target demographic you’ll want to check out a wide assortment of other possibilities. I’m talking music festivals, concerts, sporting events, races, fitness expos, and any other mass gathering you can think of where what you sell would be appealing for those going there.
Make sure to do your due diligence once again, but these type of public events can be boon if you know your customers well enough to know where they like to hang out on their off time. Help them find you and build your offline customer base one event at a time.
6. Shopping Center or Mall
The local mall is the hallmark of consumerism and a staple for retailers both big and small to take advantage of the massive foot traffic they bring with them. But wait, how are you going to set-up shop in a mall of all places?
Generally, you’ll have two options. You can go with renting a kiosk or booth space that allows you to set up shop right in the middle of the action, or you can look at vacant in-line stores that the shopping center may reserve just for pop ups or has had a hard time renting out for a long time period. Though probably less-cost effective than the other locations mentioned above, this would definitely be ideal for those who have a certain degree of experience selling in retail environments.
7. Vacant Street Level Retail Space
The holy grail of commerce is having your very own thriving street level retail space. Though perhaps a distant reality for many smaller ecommerce store owners it can sometimes be a reality if the right opportunity presents itself. Meaning a vacant commercial property that may typically be used for pop up stores or the commercial real-estate agent is having trouble selling and so will settle for more short-term engagements.
Not only will you have the ultimate control over your retail environment, you’ll be playing in the big leagues for a chance to test the waters for prime time. Though you’ll probably want to save this after you’ve done a fair bit of experimenting with the options listed above, it’s a fair assumption that with enough experience, you’ll be ready to run your own successful retail store.