The popularity of pop up shops has grown dramatically in the last decade, with businesses across a broad range of industries now capitalising on their flexibility and cost-effectiveness.

The first pop up shop is attributed to a Japanese fashion label, back in the early 2000’s, although some believe they may have emerged even earlier. Nowadays, they can be seen in use for all sorts of brands and fulfilling many different purposes. If you visit POP Brixton in London, you can even see an entire ‘village’ created solely from pop up restaurants, shops and start-up businesses.

So, what type of businesses are using pop up shops and what are they using them for?

Here, we’re going to look at the concept in more detail, from potential applications to the pros and cons, and other considerations.

What is a pop up shop?

Pop up shops – also known as portable or modular retail units – can offer retailers a flexible and affordable solution to capturing sales, or generating brand awareness. But it’s not just retailers who can capitalise on their benefits. Sporting venues, art galleries, local authorities, schools and experiential marketers are all getting in on the act.

Each unit is usually a temporary structure, designed and built to achieve a set objective. However, in some cases they may be used as a longer-term solution. According to one stat, launching a pop-up shop can be 80% cheaper than opening a traditional bricks and mortar store.

They can be placed in both indoor and outdoor locations and there are many ways the units can be constructed, including being built from custom-made steel frames, polycarbonate, or even being housed in a shipping container.

Each unit can be completely customised and fully branded. The outer shell can be finished using a range of materials, while internally they can be fitted out with any equipment and fixtures as required. This includes being made to meet all safety requirements associated with uses such as catering.

This all adds up to portable units being a highly flexible option for businesses, who can have a unit designed and adapted to meet their specific needs.

Portable units can be fully powered and can even utilise solar power if required (a popular choice in France and other European countries), coming complete with a roof mounted solar panel.

The most common ways for pop up shops to be used include: merchandise sales, bar and catering units, display areas, information centres and bespoke experiential marketing campaigns.

Who might use a pop up shop?

  • Retailers
  • Brands
  • Sports clubs & sporting venues
  • Events teams
  • Schools
  • Office-based businesses
  • Start-ups


What might a pop up unit be used for?

Pop up shops can be particularly useful for helping businesses target audiences in high footfall areas. They can also fulfil a vital role, providing firms with a way to overcome issues with limited internal space, lack of facilities, or even in meeting CSR targets.


Here are some of the most common uses:

  • To provide additional retail space­ – a pop up unit may be used to provide retail space in addition to/or instead of a static shop
  • To create temporary retail space – for example, supermarkets may use portable units while a static shop undergoes a refurbishment or temporary closure. Seasonal retailers may also use them for the times they are in operation
  • Catering – a pop up could be used as a café, bar or restaurant, or to provide additional catering facilities where existing services are oversubscribed
  • Testing the market – they can be fantastic for product launches and new brands entering the market, or for testing geographical areas
  • To get face to face with customers – for online retailers in particular, a pop up shop can provide a way to get face to face with customers, allowing them to see, hold and feel products
  • Marketing – from raising awareness in high footfall areas, to experiential marketing campaigns that provide an experience of some sort, or as part of wider PR campaigns
  • Office space – portable units could also be used to create additional office or work space, or by schools to create classrooms
  • Events and other uses – from creating family or community areas, to temporary galleries and exhibitions, the list of potential uses is endless


Key advantages

There are many advantages to this type of unit, they include:

  • Flexible – the range of potential applications is limitless and they can easily be adapted as business needs evolveSecure and robust – they can be used in city centre locations and will withstand all weathers
  • Location – they can help you be where your customers are
  • Cost-effective – potentially available to either rent or buy and far cheaper than creating a traditional, static shop
  • Professionally designed – can be fully branded and designed to fit any creative brief
  • Don’t need planning permission – if under 150sq m and used in existing commercial space, no planning permission is needed for up to 2 years
  • Space saving – come in all shapes and sizes so can help businesses make the most of what space they have, or that is available in a target location


  • Finding a location – unless you are planning to use a pop up on your own property, it may be a challenge to find exactly the space you want, where you want it
  • Effectiveness – until you’ve tested it, you won’t know that the location is right
  • Limited size – there will always be a limit to the range and amount of stock that a pop up can offer in comparison to a static store
  • Contents insurance – needs to be thought about and you may face difficulties depending on the location


Top tips for sports clubs…

Sporting venues are a key market for pop up shops and mobile kiosks, which are proving increasingly popular with clubs across both the UK and Europe.

That’s because they can help grounds maximise the sales they achieve on matchdays, while enabling them to make full use of the internal and external space they have available.

The range of ways that sporting venues might make use of portable units is broad. Here, we’ve pulled together a handy list: The top 10 ways sports clubs can use mobile kiosks and pop up units.

One strategy that continues to grow in popularity, is the creation of Fan Zones within stadiums, For more details on this, see: What is a Fan Zone and why are clubs investing so heavily in them?

Pop up shops in action – view gallery

For more inspiration, please take look at these galleries showing units produced by the team at Rapid Retail:

For over a decade, Rapid Retail has been working with retailers, brands and sports clubs across the UK and Europe. The cost-effective units are available to either rent or buy, with options to suit all budgets.

For more information about pop up shops and how they could help you achieve your business objectives, call the Rapid Retail team on +44 (0)1386 555044.