Previously in our pop up shop toolkit, we decided to pop up, made a plan, worked out a budget and looked for funding – so in this section we look at securing a space for your pop up. It’s not hard to find a space, especially if you lay good foundations. But start early as it can take a long time – and don’t get hung up on one premises, keep your options open and talk to as many people as possible.

You may be able to find an organisations helping to match creatives with empty spaces such as Hypha Studios.

Useful Tip – Don’t Use An Empty Shop!

Do think carefully – do you really need an empty shop? It might be that you can open an evening craft market in a cafe that’s usually only open in the day, that a nightclub is the perfect venue for lunchtime theatre, that you can reach new audiences from a stall in the market, or that the Town Hall foyer makes a perfect art gallery. Particularly in the early days, when you’re finding your feet or testing a new idea, using an existing space can be much easier than taking on an empty shop.

Using an empty shop to pop up

It would be a good idea to initiate a conversation with your local council, Dorset Council and BCP, or talk to your local BID to see if they can recommend somewhere.

There are two people you need to work with to get access to a premises; the building’s owner or landlord, and the manager or letting agent.

Networking can be one way to explore the possibility of renting a premises. Use search engines to find business networking groups in your area, your area’s branch of the Federation of Small Businesses, and your local Chamber of Commerce. Contact them, explain your plan and tell them about the benefits to local business. Because you’ve planned you know what size shop you want, where it should be, and for how long – you can be clear about what you ask for.

If you can’t find networking meetings, contact your town centre manager, or economic development, business support or regeneration officers at your local council and ask for their advice – they should be able to point you in the direction of local business groups that are under your radar, or direct you to landlords and letting agents.

If you have a shopping centre, they’re a really good place to look for space. They have almost certainly hosted pop ups before – and there is one centre manager with the discretion to let you have space.

How to pitch your popup shop project idea

If you have the chance to make a presentation, keep it short, sharp and focused on the problem, and your business-like solution. Don’t talk about the project itself, but about the benefits to the group you’re making a presentation to.

Remember that Elevator Pitch from Part 2 of our guide? You’re going to need it now. Remember to talk to everyone, not just landlords and letting agents, as these meetings are full of useful, active people who can help your project come to life.

If you can’t get into business meetings, it’s time for another approach: find the shops you like. Don’t think that every shop that’s empty is to let; many empty shops are still let to a company that’s not trading or has gone into administration, so won’t be available. When you find ones that are, note down the name on the estate agent’s ‘To Let’ boards and visit their office.

Either give them your one-minute pitch, asking for an appointment later that week. Or just set up the meeting, and don’t mention that you want a temporary lease and no rent until you’ve met them face to face!

Again, be clear about the size of shop, the area it should be in and the duration of the project. And don’t forget you mention that projects like yours that have been a benefit to all concerned.


(c) Dan Thompson