The Guide

Setting Up Your Pop-Up Shop

March 6, 2017

You’ve laid a strong foundation — you’ve locked down a venue, you’ve got great products just waiting to be sold. Now, it’s time to execute on all your well-laid plans to prep the space and make it your own.

Not sure where to start? Let’s take a closer look at how to set up your venue, ensure the layout and décor align with your brand, and create a flow of traffic that encourages sales.

Look at the chosen venue like a blank slate. Take the opportunity to customize the space to better align with your brand and ensure it’s optimized to help browsers convert into buyers.

Set Up Your Ideal Store Layout

There are dozens of potential store layouts (we mentioned a few in the last chapter) to use in your pop-up shop. And each type works better for different scenarios, depending on the size of the space, the products you’re selling, and how you want to highlight any featured inventory.

Three common floor plans pop-up brands should consider include:

Grid Floor Plan/Straight Layout

If you’ve ever visited a grocery or convenience store, you’ve seen this popular layout. Shelves are stocked with dozens of products, which is why this works well for retailers who boast dozens of SKUs. And while this works well for big-box retailers, smaller stores and boutiques (think book retailers, toy stores, kitchenware brands) can lean on this layout to maximize square footage while organizing their products on shelves in a way that makes sense.

Free Flow Layout

This more minimal layout is great for brands with a smaller array of inventory that want to create “zones” with product groupings for customers to explore, hang out in, and create sight lines throughout the entire space. You’ll often see this layout used for small boutiques, high-end brands, and for mixed-use spaces (i.e. a high-end nail salon that also serves coffee).



Racetrack/Loop Layout

For those who have hit up a Bed, Bath & Beyond, this layout will look vaguely familiar. As you can see in the map, the layout creates a set path (or a loop, hence the name) for customers to follow and allows them to explore shelves of products along their journey. Again, this is an optimal layout for brands with a large variety of different products that you want customers exposed to throughout their time in your store.


Ideas to Brand Your Space

Even if you’re an e-commerce brand that’s only sold online up to this point, your first foray into physical sales should still feel cohesive. Your pop-up shop should be a physical extension of your brand. While that might sound like an intimidating prospect for temporary retail newbies, it’s simpler than you might expect to align your pop up with your existing brand.


Signs and placards posted around your store can be useful for far more than loss prevention and wayfinding. Highly visible signage is a method of visual branding — so use this simple tool to your advantage.

Signage is a pretty all-encompassing concept. There’s plenty of types of signs to draw attention to your products or certain displays. Consider these signage types during the planning process:

  • Wall and/or window decals
  • Sandwich boards to sit outside storefronts
  • Neon light signs
  • Tags for your products

The obvious place to start is exterior signage with your brand’s logo. Ensure your logo sign is visible both from the adjacent sidewalk and from across the street. This helps lure in pedestrians and provides a point of recognition for customers who may already be familiar with your brand.

On the interior, use branded signage to draw attention to featured products, create a set path for customers to follow throughout the store. Make sure the copy matches the tone and voice of your brand (i.e. if you have a whimsical brand voice, have some fun with creative sign copy).


While this might be an afterthought, lighting can be an important tool for brands to create a specific ambiance that adheres to your branding. Yes, ambiance is a buzzword, but brands should pay attention to lighting as a means to an end rather than just another utility.

For example, lighting a display from the top can create sharp shadows, whereas lighting it from the sides and front is much softer. Spotlights focused on certain shelves can highlight featured products, and dim lighting along pathways with stronger lighting on shelves and displays draws shopper attention to products versus negative space.

Brands can also get creative and build unique lighting displays that can help underscore a tenant of your brand. And you can’t forget about photography! Good lighting is crucial for the “Instagram-ability” of your pop up. So, when your customers snap a quick pic for Instagram or Snapchat, your displays and product will look downright shareworthy, thanks to good lighting.

Sound and Scent Marketing

A truly immersive pop-up shop should engage all five of your customers’ senses. Yes, the layout, lighting, and products should all be visually intriguing, but don’t forget sound and scents as essential parts of your brand.

Use soundscapes (playlists or white noise) as background music as part of your brand. Does your brand emote a chill, bohemian vibe? Try playing low meditation music throughout the store. Additionally, try burning incense (nothing obnoxious — opt for a subtle scent) or infuse essential oils.

Tell a Compelling Story

When planning all these elements as extensions of your brands, consider how they all come together to tell a bigger story. Does your shop have an overall theme? Is the pop up launching a new product line, or a new brand in general? Tell that story with the experience you’re creating in the pop-up shop.

Combine all the aforementioned elements to create a visual (and sound/scent) language that communicates your brand identity. The more you stick to your story or concept, the more immersive it’ll be for your shoppers.

Use Visual Merchandising Best Practices

After nailing down the layout of your store, take some time to review visual merchandising best practices in order to encourage more sales as shoppers browse through your shop.

While visual merchandising is a broad topic with many tactics we could cover, here are a handful of best practices to help you get started.

Building a Killer Window Display

The front window in your venue serves an important purpose: to catch the attention of pedestrians and lure shoppers into your shop. So your display should be tightly planned and executed in order to achieve this overarching goal.

According to the industry expert Retail Doctor, there are some key rules to follow when creating your window display:

  • Create a theme: Just as your pop-up shop should have an overarching concept or theme, so should your window display. Pick a setting (i.e. a beach, bedroom, kitchen, etc.), pick a limited color palette,  and set up your merchandise from there.
  • Pick a few pieces of merchandise to show off: Don’t clutter your window display with a dozen different products. Pick a few featured products and build the display around them.
  • Pick a focal point: This is pretty self-explanatory. Attract interest from shoppers with a piece of merchandise that pops. Keep it eye level, and keep in mind that this is often the most expensive product in the window.

Getting in the Zone

Regardless of what store layout you choose for your pop-up shop, there are several design elements that every storefront owner should consider. These “zones” help set a customer’s pace as they walk through your shop, encouraging them to slow down to notice specific merchandise areas and transitions them from the outside world and immerse them in your brand.

While there are multiple zones you can set up throughout your store, let’s discuss the top few that will help boost your sales.

Decompression Zone

As soon as your customers step through your door, they enter what is known as the “decompression zone.” Typically, in the first five to fifteen square feet of your store, and it transitions customers from the street to this physical extension of your brand. As such, ensure that it’s open and inviting. Don’t clutter this area with merchandise you’re hoping will catch their attention — in reality, they’ll breeze through this area without noticing any products you place in the area.

Power Wall

As soon as most customers step past your decompression zone, they’ll immediately turn right. Because of this unconscious habit, this is an ideal spot for what’s referred to as a “power wall.” Here, brands often place enticing products here to get shoppers’ attention — whether that’s the hot new merchandise, products in high demand, or products with a high-profit margin.

Remember, this wall is your customer’s first strong impression once they set foot in your shop — so do your best to make it count.

Speed Bumps

When designing your store layout and setting up your visual merchandising, you’ll create a pathway for your customers to follow. This often follows a counterclockwise, circular pattern, with shoppers entering the store, turning right and circling around the store to end up back at the entrance/exit. Along the way, you’ll want to add a few displays to encourage your customers to engage with specific pieces of merchandise. These displays that slow down customers are known as “speed bumps,” and work similarly to the bumps drivers encounter in parking lots — they force vehicles to reduce their speed.

When you spend so much time and effort merchandising your products, you want to ensure customers don’t whiz past them. But featuring new, seasonal, and/or hot products in bins, on small tables, or using other fixtures can grab their attention.

Checkout Counter

Where to place checkout counters is a hotly contested subject in the retail world. For stationary point-of-sale systems (POS), experts suggest putting them in the front left of your store. When you use a circular pathway with customers entering the front right of the shop, that’s a natural point to place your checkout counters.

Another option for pop-up shop owners is to use a mobile POS to process transactions on the spot — essentially taking the sale right to the customer, minimizing long line queues and conserving precious floor space in the process. The Apple Store is one successful example of a large retailer employing a mobile POS on the sales floor to process all their transactions.

And whether you choose a stationary or mobile point of sale, you’ll need a credit/debit card reader that’s quick enough to keep those queues under control. That’s where the new Shopify card reader comes in (make sure to order your free order today!).

Moving Forward With Your Pop-Up Design

Although there’s plenty to consider when designing and setting up your pop-up shop, following the preceding guide will ensure you weigh your many options before moving forward.

With your plan and design firmly in place, it’s time to spread the word about your new venture.

Read the next part of our pop-up series: Managing and Marketing Your Pop-Up Shop