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Taking it Offline: How to Bring Life Back to Your Neighborhood’s Empty Spaces

Originally posted on

Transform an empty space and help your city’s most creative people.

You’ve probably seen a business you once loved close their doors permanently, or at least peered through one of the hundreds of thousands of vacant retail storefronts in the U.S.

You also likely know of a designer, artist or brand (big or little, online or offline) that could flourish in your area if the right opportunity came along — maybe even yourself.

That leaves you with two options if you want to bring functional beauty to unused retail spaces:

  1. Start your own pop-up shop;

  2. Help your friendly neighborhood brand or artist open a pop-up shop.

In the 21st century, the pop-up shop is going to be the main way retail reclaims its top spot in real estate, and avoids looking like this.

The pop-up shop — a temporary, targeted experience for customers and brands of all ilks to bring their wares offline — can bring new inspiration to an empty, unused, or underutilized space. That includes struggling malls, street-level storefronts, or local boutiques and galleries. Space is space. What it’s really about is collaboration and taking your ideas from the virtual world into the real one. Online may be about convenience, but offline rules the experience. Nearly 95 percent of commerce is still conducted offline, and customers demand an engaging, tactile experience from the businesses they buy from. That’s why it’s so important to have a presence in the ‘real’ world.

It’s also about collaboration. For anyone who has seen collaborative consumption and the sharing economy take off in the digital world, you know that apartment sharing, car sharing, and sharing in general is happening at a rapid pace, and it’s actually working. Sharing is the future, and it isn’t anything new (remember what your mother told you?). Imagine a world where retail space is just as accessible as an Airbnb flat.

Starting or helping start a pop-up shop initiative can be to support or curate the creativity you see around you, or to bring a brand you love into a store near you. Either way, it will help revitalize the local economy by bringing your neighbors out to enjoy a splash of color where it once was dark, dim, and unlit.

So, how do you open a pop-up shop?
  • First, pick the brands or artists that you want to curate (or highlight your own designs or products).

  • Second, find a space nearby, sign the lease, and get general liability insurance (it’s not much and you can cancel anytime).

  • Third, get your store setup. That includes creating a unique experience that’s bright and fun.

  • Finally, share your pop-up shop with friends, family and fans. Talk to local news and blogs. Get the word out.

Violla! Congratulations, you’ve transformed an empty space and helped your city’s most creative people. Now keep up the good work.

Tristan Pollock

Venture Partner at 500Startups. Founded Storefront (raised $10M, acq by OuiOpen) & SocialEarth (acq by 3BL Media). Forbes 30 Under 30. TEDx speaker. Twitter: @pollock

#offline #popupshops #neighborhoodcommerce #Retail



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