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EFF SOURCE Fashion business success without compromise

16 September 2014

7 Top Tips for Running a Successful Pop-Up Shop

Contributor Jill Heller


Jill Heller, founder of PureThread brings her unique insight and vision to the ethical fashion community with the opening of ThePureThread Pop Up store, launching October 20 – 26, 2014. Here, Jill shares with us her expert tips for planning and executing a successful pop-up shop. Image: Made by Voz

Over the past four years, PureThread has been at the forefront of bringing sophisticated fashion options to women who value both style and sustainability. Our seasonal selections and styling appointments cater to the modern, stylish, ecologically-conscious woman.

Honouring my roots in the fashion industry, as a fashion buyer, merchandiser, retailer and stylist, and tapping into my deep expertise in brick-and-mortar retail, I decided it was time to take a deeper stand for Fall 2014 into the popular new format in fashion retailing, the “pop-up shop.”

First, I want to answer a few basic questions about our endeavour.

What is a Pop Up Shop?

Pop-up shops have become quite trendy in the past several years and cater to the desire for fast, flexible, consumer-focused retailing.

Pop-up shops are temporary stores at a selected venue, for a designated (limited) period of time, and they offer the consumer something exclusive, inspiring, educational and exciting.

In turn, participating brands receive exposure that helps create a broader impact, communicating something specific to a larger audience.

Why a PureThread Pop-up Shop now?

Over the past ten years, I have built a very loyal following both for product selection and styling. PureThread, which started as a modest initiative, is growing, and I wanted to try something new for our customers, and to further grow the community.

We’ve always loved opportunities to more deeply foster the exchange between ethical design and its customers, which happens very effectively in person on the retail floor, as the conversation enables laser-like focus on what has become a global conversation.

The timing feels right to showcase our particular curatorial lens as more and more ethical product becomes available.

What do we hope will result from our efforts?

Part of our goal is to reinforce the PureThread brand by creating a visual manifestation of our values and our aesthetics. Pulling together the work of so many of our favourite designers results in a “bird’s eye view” of the PureThread vision: to showcase what we think is the most beautiful, useful, and inspiring.

We also hope to increase our customer loyalty. Some of our customers have trusted us with their wardrobes for special events or everyday wear since 2003. We think the “pop-up shop” will be really fun for our existing clientele. Since the schedule of events changes daily, we expect to see some faces many times, enabling deeper relationship building.

And, of course, we hope to build our community and our customer base. The Pop-up Shop provides a tangible reason for curious people to come and see what we are up to, and to experience a new version of the typical retail experience.

We think that this gorgeous event will crystallise what PureThread looks and feels like for new customers, and draw them in to become loyal followers of our efforts, and year-round customers for our personal styling service.

Here’s 7 top tips for planning and running a successful Pop-up Shop:

1) Selecting the right merchandise

When A/W 2014 collections opened in February, I (as always) scoured the market searching for the season’s great designers and brands — the best picks and the most engaging stories to share.

The ‘sustainable’ fashion market has grown so much as fashion brands adopt more ethical, sustainable practices. After years of working as a stylist, I envisioned being able to shop in a fully stocked store filled with gorgeous product that reflects sustainable values.

Now seemed like the perfect time to finally create that retail experience, showcasing our very best edits of sustainable fashion, sharing the inspiring stories of our favourite and most pioneering brands.

I have specially selected brands according to stringent style and sustainability criteria. I am always so impassioned when I discover the brands that match my taste level for beautiful design, fabric, colour, price, my clients’ lifestyle and expectations for beautifully designed garments – as well as my ethical requirements. I am really excited for my customers to see, touch, and try these items, and to fall in love as I have.

An added bonus, and I think key to creating a successful Pop Up experience, is that all 20 brands included are thrilled to participate.

The result of our curated efforts (including extra touches like a choosing a space with a garden and café) is a very unique combination of product and ideas that engage our customer in thinking about creating a more a conscious lifestyle. We’ve tried hard to create a whole immersive experience.

We have a great selection of basic knits and casual clothes at an affordable price-point from brands such as With & Wessel and Organic by John Patrick, plus a great collection of higher-priced luxury items –- from denim to scarves to hand-knitted sweaters and suit jackets — by designers including Maiyet, Samuji, Kristensen Du Nord, and Humanoid.

We also have home goods, the US debut of organic beauty brand Nourish, and a thrilling series of daily-changing jewellery exhibits. And, customers will have lots of opportunities to meet many of our designers in-person too.

2) Use a Pop-up Shop as an opportunity to test the market

One of the biggest benefits of doing a pop-up shop is the opportunity to conduct a bit of field research and test the market’s response to your product and price point before committing bigger resources to a full-time retailer. Plus, for your customers, it’s a breath of fresh air to go into a creatively produced environment.

From the business end, the flexible model allows us to be strategic but also to be nimble, responding to the organic unfolding of the event. And, sales are usually high, since a limited time offering creates sense of urgency and satisfaction in getting the goods while they last.

3) Determine the LOCATION: Finding the right space for your business

When picking a geographical location, it was important for me to get us back to our community roots in Westchester. I mostly work now in NYC and internationally, but in my heart, this area is home, since I lived and ran a successful retail shop there for many years (until 2007), and my most loyal clients are local to the area. Make sure you choose an area of town where the majority or at least a fair number of your customers are based.

As for the building, the bottom line is that it has to feel like a match for your aesthetic. I’ve been excited to create a retail experience at the Bedford Historical Society since, the rooms and the garden are just what I needed to create a beautiful retail space without a lot of overhead, and the idea of repurposing an old building fits right into our ethics.

I love that Bedford Historical Society has an interesting history and heritage from the community’s early days as a colonial settlement. We benefit the landlord by putting the building on the map for events like this, and benefit the town by driving traffic to local businesses. I think my unique skills and vision to turn an empty space into an economically successful and buzz-generating property create a great opportunity for the community, my customers, my business, and my collaborators.

4) Product selection and floor plan: Creating the flow of the space

Once the fashion and vendor selection was complete, I consulted with interior designer Gloria Rubino to develop the flow of the space. Since a pop-up store is temporary, it is flexible and offers the ability to roll in and out with ease.

It was fun to think through the vision of how people will move through the space and peruse the product. We are taking a whole lifestyle approach to how people absorb the space design, with nutritious meals and cold-pressed juices in the garden, some kitchen and home goods to check out, a private dressing lounge, and vignettes of other categories of fashion and beauty. Get creative!

5) Customer service is of utmost importance

As a business leader that is honestly committed to engaging in sustainable and socially responsible business practices, this event is a wonderful opportunity to educate our customers and to inspire responsible shopping behaviour.

We want to consciously invite customers to focus not only on how beautiful items are, but how connected and ethical the process was to create them. We want our customers to ask of the products they seek: “Who made it? Where did it come from?”, and to create meaningful relationships with the products and companies they support with their dollars.

Conscious consumers insist that companies reliably and accurately detail product features and benefits, and they reward companies that are honest and authentic about processes and practices and that show accountability for the brand’s impact on the environment and larger society. Our job is to know the stories of the brands we’re showcasing inside-and-out and to communicate their stories clearly and in an inspiring way.

And of course, listening closely to what customer’s are saying, asking the right open ended questions of who they are and what makes them tick helps us to make sure we suggest relevant products and tell them the details that matter to them.

6) Staffing the shop

My PureThread team is working hard to pull this event off. My talented curators / stylists, Tracey Perlmutter and Wendi Winshall, each contribute their style and flair to the shop’s aesthetic, while my amazing associate, Kendall Langenstein, is pulling together a lot of the logistics and communications.

I also hired some trusted staff who worked with me at my former retail boutique to help with specifics, including my accounting team and a former employee who is now a landscape designer and is designing our garden for the shop.

Key to our success is that my team members are all so excited to do this new project and to see how it helps our business. It is a lot of work, so an enthusiastic, reliable and efficient team is key. Choose your people wisely and be sure they are bought into your idea and mission.

7) Getting the word out: Marketing, advertising and PR

The main challenge for successfully marketing a Pop-up Shop is to get the buzz going ahead of time. We have attacked marketing needs in three basic ways:


Locally, we sent a direct mail invitation to our customers and to a wider selection of community members. We bought some local advertisements, contacted applicable bloggers, created local signage, distributed flyers in the neighbourhood, and placed a welcome banner on the street level of the shop, inviting everyone inside.

Because our shop is going to increase local foot traffic, we contacted local businesses, invited our neighbours and asked them to share the information with their customers too.

Other resources for getting the word out include a blast via the local Chamber of Commerce, Federation of Small Businesses, and local business networking groups.


One of the best ways we were able to spread the work has been via social media — especially through the brands whose work we are representing. They all have their own following, so we came up with a collaborative branding approach in which all brands shared the marketing materials we developed.

I also created a special Facebook events page to update my regular customers and have used our blog to share information. We’ve done some collaborative marketing email blasts, and hired a publicist to help generate some stories in the media.


Finding strategic partners can really increase your clout.

We created a list of everyone that supports, is affected by, or is interested in our Pop-up Shop but might not be directly involved in the day-to-day running of the business, as these are all of our stakeholders. Through relationships with stakeholders we were able to reach a wider audience, through their networks.

And, of course, we’ve been sharing the news with our customers and anyone we interact with for months and months. We’ve been networking both online and in person to build excitement.

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