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Pop-Up vs Semi-Permanent Retail – What is the Best Strategy for You?

At first thought, ‘pop-up’ and ‘semi-permanent’ pretty much sound like the same thing. One of the key features of a pop-up is that it is a temporary fixture, or indeed ‘semi-permanent’ and they both set up camp for a short while, trade, and then move on. This is pretty much the only similarity because in fact, they play very different roles. So, what is the difference and how do you go about navigating which suits your brand?

Here is how we define them:


A pop-up shop, on the most part, is a short-term, temporary retail space (when we say temporary this ranges from a few days to a year in terms of length).

They come in many forms – with the original ones being market stalls. You may walk into one not realising it is temporary as the look and feel is just like any retail store, or they can be found in the open air on a busy high street, in a tent, double-decker bus, or a telephone box. Yes, we created a pop-up retail experience from a telephone box in 2019!

The role of a pop-up is to highlight and promote one aspect of a brand or capture a specific ‘moment’. This is usually a new product launch, an event, or a seasonal promotion. It is also a vehicle to dramatically uplift sales or shift end of life stock, with the temporary storefront providing a sense of urgency for consumers.

They are most suited to high-footfall areas to be impactful and reach lots of consumers in a short space of time.


Traditionally, (and in our opinion, frustratingly) commercial retail leases often required a 10 or 20 year commitment to a space. Meaning that once you are in, you have committed and must muddle along to find ways to make it work for the long-term - no going back.

The idea behind semi-permanent retail however is to flip this on its head. How do you know if your brand will flourish in an environment without being there? Like with all other aspects of business – success comes from trial, test, and learn before diving in.

Your new team hires likely have a 3-month probation period for you to test out the waters and ensure it is the right fit. Your marketing department send out A/B testing emails to learn when the best time of day is to engage with your customers. So why should it be any different for physical retail? In our opinion, if you are considering any large and/or long-term commitment with a heavy up-front investment it is even more important to undergo a ‘probation period’ before signing the contract on your retail space.

Semi-permanent allows you to set up shop for a short-term period with the purpose to see, feel, hear, try out, experiment, and finesse your physical retail offering without high risk.

When executed correctly, it is an information gathering activity and chance to play without the commitment.

Is this the right location? Does this instore experience connect? Is this the right market? Are our customers based here? Have we added value for our consumers from this location? What are we missing? Do we need more, or less space? I could go on…

How to work out what is the right strategy for you?

This comes down to taking a good look at what you are wanting to achieve from the activity. In many cases, both a pop-up shop and semi-permanent retail can benefit a brand but to make sure you are going down the right path ask yourself:

· What is it I want to learn from this activity?

· What am I aiming to achieve?

· What does success look like?

Where to start?

If you haven’t previously ‘done’ physical retail (or perhaps you have given it a go but with limited success), even the idea of a temporary store can be daunting. But physical retail isn’t going away anytime soon, and we have all read the stats about the growing importance of experience, face to face interaction and the consumer demand for a seamless omni-channel experience.

Also, it is worth noting that for some business models not all success is measured fiscally, perhaps consider if physical retailing forms part of a wider brand awareness or marketing strategy, to enhance the launch of a new product or message you are trying to drive for your consumer, or perhaps an extension of your online customer journey and experience?

Physical retail no longer must be an expensive and long-term commitment, when executed properly it will deliver for both you and your consumers. Whether pop-up or semi-permanent the key is not to try to achieve it all and to be extremely clear with the why in order to get the return.


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