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Part 2 of a 2-part series (see Part 1)

In this blog series, we present tips and strategies for creating successful pop-up store events, spotlighting the efforts of Hagerstown, Maryland. This post features information about selecting dates, preparing a budget, raising money and marketing, and it closes with a list of additional helpful hints from Hagerstown.  The first post {link} discussed securing and preparing spaces, and recruiting vendors and encouraging regulatory compliance.

Local leaders interested in filling vacant storefronts in historic downtowns and older commercial districts – to increase community livability and stimulate economic growth – might consider cultivating locally owned businesses.

Throughout the country, local governments, business improvement districts and Main Street organizations are experimenting with ways to bring retail into older commercial districts with less of an upfront commitment from business owners. Their tools: retail business incubators and pop-up stores. Pop-up stores use vacant building space for a day, a week, or even longer, but on a temporary basis; they bring foot traffic to the commercial district and can help business owners test the market prior to making a long-term commitment.

Select Beneficial Dates

Volunteers carefully considered the weekends on which to hold the events, aiming to create as much synergy as possible between complementary activities. For the first pop-up event, they selected the weekend of Augustoberfest, Hagerstown’s popular, family-friendly celebration of the area’s German heritage, which takes place downtown. Organizers of each event supported the other with cross-promotions and reciprocal social media and marketing campaigns.

steampunk-sourdoughThe second event was held on two consecutive weekends at the end of November. The pop-up stores opened on a Friday night to coincide with the city’s tree lighting festivities and the Maryland Theater’s HollyFest Night, and again the next day, when they generated their own impressive foot traffic without an accompanying activity. The pop-up event continued the following weekend, with vendors aiming to capitalize on post-Thanksgiving holiday shopping. One store, James & Jess’ House of Goods, also stayed open between the two weekends to get a more realistic perspective on the market during the week, and they did well.

The Downtown Movement and the city are currently collaborating on the third pop-up event, which will take place concurrent with the 20th Annual Western Maryland Blues Fest, planned for the last weekend in May. Blue Fest is also held downtown, and organizers are working on additional cross-promotion activities.

Prepare a Budget and Raise Money

While not an overly expensive proposition, pop-up events do come with expenses.

For the first event, organizers launched an online IndieGogo campaign to raise funds, which was moderately successful and helped cover costs. Vendors did not pay a fee to participate in the first event.

For the second event, vendors were asked to pay a $25 fee to help cover the cost of cleaning supplies and marketing.

Market the Event

The greatest expense for the first event was marketing. The group marketed the event through billboards, banners and newspaper ads and the city used its buying power to leverage reduced advertising rates.

were-doing-it-again-bannerOrganizers took care to market existing businesses as part of the event, because they recognized that more retail has the potential to generate more business activity. They prepared a comprehensive map of existing businesses, pop-ups and parking options, which fostered further good will with business owners. In the end, by advertising both existing businesses and pop-ups, organizers greatly increased the appeal of the event.

Marketing can take many forms. Downtown Manager Andrew Sargent met with the owners of buildings that had deteriorated so much they could not be considered as pop-up store spaces, and he received permission for The Downtown Movement to paint windows in many of them. The beautification effort broadened the reach and impact of the event itself.

Results & Next Steps

The momentum of downtown progress in Hagerstown is palpable.  While the city and private investors have taken many steps to revitalize the city center, the very visible influx of stores and patrons during the pop-up events also deserves credit for this positive energy.

The Downtown Movement is rapidly gaining traction and has its own Facebook page. Downtown Movement supporters meet every Wednesday to strategize next steps for Hagerstown’s city center. In addition to preparing for the next pop-up event, the Downtown Movement wants to encourage landlords to lease space at reduced rents for a year to entice fledgling business owners to enter the market. In a complementary effort, the city is working on a retail incentive program that will help tenants with the first year of rent.

Three of the temporary vendors have since committed to permanent space. Kendall Taylor Home and James & Jess’ House of Goods are both moving into the spaces they occupied during the popup events. Kendall Taylor will commit half its space to consignors, mostly of upcycled home décor, further supporting small business growth. Pretzel & Pizza Creations, a long-time Frederick restaurant, used the pop-up event to test the Hagerstown market and recently decided to open a second location in Hagerstown’s city center.

In an ongoing show of support, enthusiasm and its typical commitment to action, the Downtown Movement met recently to make plans, all the while helping the owner of Kendall Taylor paint the store.

downtown-movement-logoAdditional Helpful hints:

  • Have a strong base of organized volunteers
  • Provide potential vendors with a comprehensive kit of information, including a list of what the volunteers will do, what the vendors are expected to do, business regulations, information about liability insurance, etc.
  • Be organized up front
  • Don’t be afraid to ask landlords and existing business owners for help. In Hagerstown, private landlords opened up parking lots for the events, business owners added popups (temporarily) to their liability insurance, and other business owners agreed to allow use of their restrooms.

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For more information about Hagerstown’s efforts, contact Andrew Sargent, (301) 739-8577 ext. 822.

For more information about The Downtown Movement, contact thedowntownmovement@gmail.com or visit their website.