I’ve recently had a pop up shop in John Lewis. This is a behind the scenes glimpse into how it came about with my insider tips.
I first found out about the opportunity when my friend and business buddy Sonia Rutter asked me if I’d heard of the pop up company. They are The Great British Exchange and funnily enough they are based in Harrogate where I live. So I contacted them via email and filled in their application form.You have to upload images, descriptions and prices of a few products you would like to sell in John Lewis and write a brief bio about your company along with why you want a pop up shop and what you would do. I heard back fairly quickly that I had been approved on a local level and then had to wait for the head office to agree.
Apply for your pop up shop even if you don't think you're ready
I honestly didn't expect to get approval, but it just goes to show you have to go for these opportunities, because they did say yes. I was absolutely thrilled and fairly daunted too. I knew I only had a few weeks to get everything in place, as I don't usually have a lot of products finished in stock.
Once we had the go ahead I chose my date from the ones available and had a choice of three stores nearest me Sheffield, Leeds or York. I decided to go for the Leeds store because it was near me and quite a large new store. I chose the half term week 26th October to 1st November as I thought it would be good to sell my Christmas products. These include my Silver Mistletoe Decorations and Christmas Limited Edition jewellery. To be honest it was a lot of work, but if you focus you can definitely achieve more.
In hindsight this was a great decision because lockdown number 2 was announced in the UK on the Friday evening of my pop up week, meaning no more shopping apart from essentials for the next month. I had almost swapped to a date in November, but decided against it in the end. A very lucky choice. I really feel for the people who were meant to be following me though, as they've had their shops postponed.
Make your stock and check you have enough packaging, business cards etc
During the next few weeks I worked hard on making stock for my pop up shop. John Lewis can’t really give you any idea of how much you will need, so you have to decide yourself how much to take. I definitely think it’s worth several of each item, but I found that it’s good to get things on display so you can get feedback from people in store. I also took quite a few one off designs, which was also good because you can say this is the only one of this design. It's really helpful talking to people about their favourite designs once you're in store.
I was busily making jewellery and found a production line set up was much more efficient. Making several of the same thing by batching was much quicker, and although occasionally it’s a little boring, having some music or podcast as a distraction meant that I was able to produce my jewellery much more productively.
Getting all my packaging ready was relatively easy, as I had placed an order fairly recently, so I chose to get some extra large eco cotton pouches for my mistletoe decorations. I also needed to order a banner with my business name and a sign for my table. Some more business cards were also ordered. I gave about 300 of these during my week in store. Bear in mind that orders for any supplies are taking longer than usual so any extra orders need to be done in good time or they may not arrive in time for your pop up shop. I also ordered a pop up banner and an acrylic sign with my branding on for the table.
Go for a store visit
The next exciting thing was my store induction visit. I went into the store and met my contact Laura (another Laura!) at the Customer Collection desk and she took me on a store tour showing me where my pop up shop would be. I saw the sort of table I would be using as well as having a behind the scenes visit to the loading bay, the locker rooms and the staff area with the restaurant, fridge and relaxation area. This was brilliant because she was able to answer my questions and made everything seem achievable. John Lewis made me feel very welcome and they're very well organised. Things are clearly managed well to make things easy even though we're only in store for a week. Everybody I met in store were really helpful and the partners were all so lovely.
Write and check your product list
After this I had to send my product list to John Lewis itemising each item and the price. These are then uploaded onto the card reader you sell from by The Great British Exchange so it's worth checking all your listings carefully to make sure all your items are included and the prices are correct.
Photography and store pop up vision board
John Lewis needed product shots for publicity and use in-store. Mine were done by the lovely Karen Young Photography The Leeds store I was in had A3 and A4 acrylic frames. I used a couple of the largest ones for product shots and one of the A4 ones for my bio, the other one for my hallmarking sheet which is a legal requirement for anybody selling jewellery. Mine was downloaded from the Birmingham Assay Office which is where I get my hallmarking done.
Planning how my pop up show would look was my next mission, so I headed over to Pinterest for some inspiration. Here's the Pop Up Shop board I made while deciding what my shop would look like. I wanted a clean high end feel which would showcase my handmade jewellery. I also wanted to focus on the sustainability aspect of my business, so chose to use a few plants.
Packing jewellery and organisation before the big day
Once the week of my pop up shop was approaching I had lots of small details to finalise, such as packing up my jewellery and organising it, making sure it was ready to put out quickly on the first morning. My organisation had to be good because there are only a few hours to set up shop, and the time goes very quickly!
The night before my shop I gathered everything ready by my front door and checked off my list. I used my notes app on my phone with the tick box to check things off as I made sure I had everything I needed. We read through the documents again telling us of all the procedures, which made it easier to know what we should be doing, such as providing hand sanitizer and wearing a mask.
The day of my pop up shop and we packed things into the car. My husband drove my daughter and I to the store. We pressed the buzzer for the loading bay and drove right into the underground loading bay of the store to unload. We were given our visitor passes and the code for entry and exit. Our personal effects were left in the lockers and we locked them with a padlock (bring your own) while we headed upstairs to set up our shop.
Setting up your Pop up Shop
Our tables were ready and waiting for us, so we got going straight away unpacking and setting up. After a little while most things were laid out and we organised, adding prices etc to make it look better. It's worth standing back once in a while to see what it would look like from a customers' perspective. I had also printed out a price list sheet which was really useful. I also took a book and a few pens to make a note of any enquiries or contacts. I discovered quite a few talented people in store from photographers to make-up artists which may lead to future collaborations.
Advice if you're Nervous - Meeting and Talking to Customers
I was a bit nervous first of all, but gradually got more confident as I spoke to more people. I think I would say just start talking to people about what you do and why. It was also brilliant when I had friends pop in too, so do invite your friends to visit you. During the days it was lovely to meet customers. I would say that you should be prepared for many people to walk past. Not everybody is your customer. After a while it got much easier to realise who my clients were, and made it easier for me to find and talk to them. I certainly got better at getting to know who my customers are and handed out lots of business cards.
I loved the feedback I got and found that this was one of the biggest positives about having the pop up shop. It was a bit of a shock to me having to stand up all day, but amazingly I did get used to it. Bizarrrely enough by the Sunday I felt better than I did at the end of the first day! Comfortable shoes are my top tip!
Things to do when things are quiet in store
I used any quiet time to take photographs and add to my Instagram stories. You can find me on Instagram here. My story highlights are in the circle labelled John Lewis near the top of the page. You wouldn’t believe how many DMs I got from my stories. I also spent some time cleaning and rearranging my display. Cleaning cloths and spray are really useful.
Once we got into a routine the days went fast and I enjoyed talking to customers. Feedback was positive and people were really complementary, which was lovely.
Go for it!
I would definitely recommend having a pop up shop. Overall it was a really fun experience, I enjoyed interacting with people far more than I expected and the publicity from having a pop up shop with such a well respected brand as John Lewis was really worthwhile. If in doubt apply and go for it!
To see my best selling product in John Lewis please click here
Please leave any questions below and I'll do my best to answer them.
Love and sparkles,