Well done – after all the planning, fundraising, and overcoming a few practical problems with your space, you’re ready to open. This bit can be a whirlwind, but remember why you’re doing it. And don’t forget to have some fun, too.

Meeting The Public

To make the most of opening your empty shop, you’ll want to:

  • Engage with people when they visit
  • Capture information from them for future contact
  • Get feedback on your work

Choosing set opening times, and displaying them clearly in the window, is vital. It’s better to advertise that you are open for less hours, and get the highest number of visitors in the shortest time. Make sure you find out about local events – like a farmers’ market or an arts festival – when visitor numbers to the area may be higher, and open to match. Use your social social media to let people know when you’re open. Make this a regular reminder, as you’ll catch different people online on different days.

On the days you’re open, use signs on street corners to direct people your way. Find out if there are any sites nearby where you can legally hang a temporary banner or signpost. And if you can display an A-board, put one out in a prominent location.

Make your venue stand out from others in the street: bunting, flags, or balloons tell people exactly where you are and are like an urban shorthand that says something exciting is happening. You’ll notice that many potential visitors are worried about entering your space, especially if it’s not immediately clear what you’re doing: make them feel comfortable by putting up a sign to say you are open, and if possible leaving the front door open wide.

Once visitors are in, try to make them feel welcome without being too pushy. It’s a fine balance, but a polite ‘hello, look around and I’m here if you have any questions’ always works. And it should be obvious – but remember to smile! It’s all about engaging with visitors. Don’t ignore people when they come in; don’t huddle with friends in deep conversation; don’t bury your head in a book; don’t eat food at your shop counter.

Keeping a rough count of visitors is a good idea, and provides some valuable information for your evaluation. Keep a day to day count, or for more detail monitor mornings and afternoons separately. If you have huge numbers of visitors or you’re open for weeks on end, it may not be possible to count everyone in and out. Count visitors for an hour a day, multiply by the number of hours you’re open and use this to estimate footfall.

Even better than just counting is starting a real relationship with your visitors. Try to collect details from them to build your own mailing list with a simple ‘sign up for our list’ form. Use a visitor’s book as well, near the door, to capture comments from visitors as they’re leaving. Or be inspired – a big board, sticky notes and a pen are an equally good, and far more visually exciting, way to encourage feedback.

While collecting information is vital, particularly if you’re working for, with or funded by an organisation that wants certain data collected, don’t let this compromise the friendly and informal nature of your pop up.

And make sure that visitors can take away your details too, by giving them postcards, business cards or a simple leaflet. Include all the ways they can contact you – with your social media pages shown clearly. If there are future events they might like, make sure they are given details of those before they leave.


(c) Dan Thompson www.danthompson.co.uk