California Dreaming: What I learnt from my first pop-up shop
Throughout the month of October I ran a pop-up shop in California Lane in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane. The shop itself was a collective of local designers working across fashion, jewellery, decor, ceramics and illustration. It's a project which was part-funded by a Brisbane City Council Creative Sparks Grant and fuelled by my love, sweat and tears. Having a shop has been a dream I've had since I was little so it still blows my mind that I got the chance to do it for real life. It's been exhausting, but worth it. Here is what I learnt:
1. Just go for it!
Just to be transparent, I am in no way qualified to run a shop. I've certainly have never done it before. In fact, since graduating from fashion studies I've applied for a bunch of retails jobs, which I didn't get because I had no retail experience... it's the biggest catch 22. And on top of that, opening a retail store during a pandemic is probably not the smartest decision. But, it is something I've always wanted to do, and the opportunity presented itself, so... I just did it. It has been a huge learning curve and I made a lot of mistakes. Which is great because now I have an entire list of how next time it's going to be bigger and better.
2. People do notice.
There was a moment about half way through the project where it had been a long and slow week, I was tired and deflated. It was Sunday afternoon and no-one had walked into the store in the last two hours and frankly I was over it. So I decided to close up an hour early and go home. In my mind I thought "Who's even going to notice that I'm not here?". As it turned out, on my way home I got a message from a someone who had made the trip to see the shop asking where the heck I was? I was so disappointed in myself. It's not even about a loss of a potential sale. What really bothered me was that I have been chipping away at establishing my brand for a entire year and most of that time it felt like no-one even noticed I existed. And then, there was this person, who found me amongst all the noise and cared enough to make the trip to see the store... and I wasn't there. This was an important lesson; It doesn't matter if you have made no sales that day. It doesn't matter if you've made a heap of sales that day. Consistency is key and you gotta be true to your word because people will notice when you don't.
3. How do you measure success?
The pop-up ran for 6 weeks. There were weeks when my sales were good. Sometimes sales were great and I felt like everything was right with the world and I was walking on clouds. Then I had two weeks where I had no sales. Not one sale and it nearly crushed me. Luckily in the end it all worked out and I was able to reach my targets. But it's during those down times that I had to get really clear on how I was measuring success. Sales are one measure of success. But that is just one part of the puzzle. The experience of running the entire operation, from managing Artists, PR and promotion, curating the store, connecting with new clients and the opportunities that just pop up as if by magic are simply invaluable. And none of that is wasted, even if it's been a slow sales week. Remember, it's a long game.
It's been 6 weeks of ups and downs, but overall I've had an awesome time. For me, the most valuable thing is learning. If I can learn something, anything from an experience, then it's worthwhile. And this first version in the trilogy of pop-ups has given me learning I never could have gained during my years of formal fashion training. There are lots of things I like about the shop, and it was a huge thrill when I opened to door to the store for the first time and it pretty much looked how I had imagined it in my head (I just love it when that happens!). But there are a bunch of things that didn't work. Things I would do differently. And luckily for me, I'm going to get the chance to do that in the near future. So what next? Well, next is a very much needed break to rest, recouperate and let it all sink in. And then, I will start planning for the next version of the Neighbourhood Pop-Up. When? Sometime in the first half of 2021. Where? I'm not sure yet... who knows, it might even pop up in your neighbourhood!