In recent years Manchester has seen a rapid growth of pop ups, particularly in bars and restaurants (Manchester’s fashionable Northern Quarter positively teems with them). You may have heard of them, or even visited one, but pop ups are here and coming to a high street near you.
In March Didsbury played host to an exciting pop up shop which showcased the work of 20 talented local designers and craftspeople. It was open (as planned) for only five weeks and promoted almost entirely by social media and word of mouth. I spoke to Amanda Robins who runs Gimme That Thing about her role in the pop up phenomenon.
What is a pop up and why are you popping up?
A pop up shop is one that appears on the high street for a short period and then disappears. My shop, Handmade Local, popped up in Didsbury for just 5 weeks throughout March 2013. I chose to open as a pop up in order to showcase the work of over 20 local designers/artists including my own jewellery and knitwear business, Gimme That Thing, and to test the market without too big a financial outlay.
When did you first pop up and what are your future plans?
This was the fifth pop up shop that I have run in the last 18 months. The first was in the Chorlton Arts Festival hub shop in Chorlton precinct just before Christmas 2011. I shared the responsibility with a textile designer friend and we invited 10 designers that we knew to share the cost of running the space for 2 weeks as well as sharing the manning of the shop day to day. This worked so well for us that we rented the space whenever the opportunity arose, so we had it another 4 times for a week at a time. This was ideal as the footfall was fantastic and the shop gained a reputation for changing hands every Monday so people knew to drop by each week to see who was running it and what was on offer.
Sadly this space is no more. I am already on the look out for other empty retail premises where I hope to run our second Handmade Local pop up shop from late November until Christmas, hopefully in the Didsbury, Chorlton or Heaton Moor area.
What are the pros and cons to being a pop up instead of having your own premises or market stall?
I do both. I love having market stalls – I attend the incredibly fun and funky Levenshulme Market every 4th Saturday of the month where I have repeat customers. They know that they’ll find me there, rather like being in a permanent shop but without the commitment or cost.
For me the advantage of having a pop up is that I’m not restricted to just one location. Having said that, it took me over a year to find a landlord anywhere in south Manchester who would even consider renting out empty premises on a very short term agreement. The big problem was getting past the estate agents and making direct contact with the property owners. Most estate agents would not even entertain the idea of a pop up and therefore did not even consult the property owners. Pop ups are huge in London but here I think landlords and estate agents are suspicious of the whole idea. Another advantage is that I can dress the shop however I like and not have to break it down at the end of the day which is a bit of a pain as anyone who has a market stall will know.
One of the main disadvantages of having a pop up is that you are most likely to be doing this on a limited budget so will probably not want to fork out for signage over the shop or expensive press advertising. I relied on Twitter as a promotional tool and had a considerable number of customers coming into the shop saying that that was where they had heard about us. Another disadvantage is the very fact that you are only there for a short time. It takes the general public a few weeks to find out about your existence by which time you are thinking about your next location. The biggest hurdle for me though was finding suitable shop contents insurance. All of the main insurance brokers (and I contacted at least 20) would only provide a minimum of 12 months cover where I only wanted a maximum of 3 months. I eventually found short term cover with a company who specialises in insurance for creative people but if I hadn’t found them I probably would have had to cancel my pop up plans.
Why do you think pop ups are popular?
I actually don’t think they are popular outside London, not yet. They are on the up though and I think they will be found all over the UK in a year’s time. They are a no risk solution for anyone wanting to test their products and a great way of finding the right location. With so many businesses going under these days and more and more people turning to online shopping as the easy option the pop up shop is pumping new life into the high street and offering variety to the public. You can open a pop up on a shoe string. I shared the rent, overheads and utility bills with the other 20+ designers to ensure that I wasn’t going to be out of pocket. All you really need is an idea, an empty shop with a willing landlord, and a supportive local community and you are up and running.
I would love to hear from you (you can contact me via my website) if you have or know of a suitable pop up retail space in south Manchester for my pre-Christmas project.
When I’m not dreaming up my next pop up shop you can find my handmade wire wrap jewellery and luxury designer handknits on my website –http://www.gimmethatthing.etsy.com/
The Didsbury Pop Up Shop stocked work by…
The Handmade Home – lotions and candles
This Is Lullaby – baby clothes
Sally Cartwright – mosaics
Jill Snape – watercolours and cards
Amy Brook – embroidered books and pictures
The No Such Disco – fat kitty prints, phone cases, cards
Demitra Robins – cards
Angela’s Gift Boutique – quirky wall plaques
Julia Farnsworth – soaps and bathbombs
Beetlefelt Studios – textile workshops
Buddha Beauty – luxury body butters
Ledon Gifts – racing car part clocks
Misericordia – embroidered baby name pictures
Venus Creations – fairy wings
Sausage Dog – weird soft toys
Gimme That Thing – jewellery and luxury knitwear