In the previous chapters of our Popup Shop toolkit we looked at how you source a space for your popup shop project. In this chapter we look at curating the space once you have secured a place. High street retailers spend a lot of time, money and effort making their shops look good – you can achieve similar standards on a budget by being creative.

Think carefully about how your space will work. A big, open space with large windows might make a great gallery space, but could be intimidating if you don’t have a lot of stock to showcase, and you want to try and keep your customers in the space as long a possible!

Can you create multiple spaces in your shop?

For example:

  • a quiet corner for meet-ups and workshops
  • a wider space for displaying art or artefacts
  • well-displayed books relating to the exhibition or workshop will encourage people to stay longer
  • why not keep the office area away from the public?

The basic rule is, choose a style and stick to it.

Find furniture and objects that match and treat the space as one big display. Or if you’re going to ‘zone’ the interior – maybe a cafe area, a shop corner, a display space – use furniture and colours to make each area distinct.

Even better than buying new furniture is recycling; embrace the temporary nature of the project and find furniture for free, using your local Freegle group. Give it all a lick of paint – everything white looks stylish and professional, or if you fancy more fun try mis-matched primary colours. Then give it away on Freegle when the project’s finished. You can also search on Facebook groups in your local area for furniture or fittings.

And don’t forget to use any furniture, fixtures and fittings you find already in the space as well!

It’s always possible to borrow equipment. Larger local stores may also be able to help with the loan of shop-fittings, shelving and so on. Local community centres, charities and organisations might be able to loan you other things that you need. Museums might have display plinths, and libraries may loan desktop display cases. If you have a clear plan and you know exactly what you need, it’s easy to ask.

Wifi in your space

It’s unlikely you will find a space that has wifi available so you will need to either use your on mobile data for use in the shop like connecting your card payment reader. However, there is a gadget called a ‘mi-fi’ which is about the size of a mobile phone. It connects to mobile broadband, and then acts as a wifi router for up to five laptops or other devices. It’s ideal for creating temporary wifi hotspots in empty shops and provides a reliable, robust connection. It will cost about £50, and its pay-as-you-go so you’ll need to top it up.

Bring a toolkit

You’ll need a few tools, and with this useful kit you should be able to pull off that Mary Poppins trick and look prepared for any emergency! You don’t need anything specialist. Some of these suggestions are good:

  • a claw hammer
  • pliers
  • scissors
  • a couple of screwdrivers
  • a staple gun
  • gaffer tape
  • masking tape
  • nylon fishing wire
  • small tacks or nails
  • drawing pins
  • staples and you’re ready!

Blue tack, bulldog clips and dressmaking pins are also useful for displaying things.

The whole kit should cost less than £50.

Signs & Legibility

Signs are important. Look at the shops around yours – they have invested in clear signs, corporate identities and clever displays to make it comfortable for customers to come in and spend money.

Make your venue stand out from others in the street. 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.

You may choose to spend money on custom-made shop signs. Why not talk to local illustrators or sign writers to create interesting signage or a fun mural on the shop window and a your A-frames?

Think as well about how art galleries use signage; when you walk into a room at Tate, it tells you what the room’s about in big, clear letters.

Design clear signs explaining what the project is about. You can create your own in free design platforms like enlarge designs at a copy shop for legibility. If you use your signs to explain the temporary nature of the project, it can attract people to get involved in this or future projects too!

In our next chapter we will look at how you can tell everyone about your project with our marketing and communication tips.