Considerations in making a successful pop-up shop

DTC Path to Physical Retail: Choosing and Furnishing a Pop-Up Shop


From restaurants to media companies to DTC brands, pop-ups continue to be a way to connect with consumers and provide an unforgettable experience. Not only do they provide a unique and exciting way to draw attention, they offer a quick way to test a new market. And as one of the many paths to physical retail, pop-up shops can give brands a great financial bump if done properly.

Note: This is part of our much larger clicks-to-bricks series. Be sure to check out the rest of our posts on moving a DTC brand from digital to physical:

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The Path to a Pop-Up: Considerations for Digital Brands

Last week, we looked at some of the reasons that a pop-up might work for a digital native brand. From giving brands a way to tell their story in a new way to giving fans a way to find exclusive products, pop-up spaces are a quick and easy way to enter the physical world. But what goes into ensuring that your pop-up goes right? Today, we’re going to look at how to make it happen.

Choosing the Space

For physical retail, location is everything. But not every location option is ideal. As we discussed in the steps to planning your path to physical retail, the decision isn’t as simple as picking the most exciting downtown space. This is doubly true when you’re only looking at a short-term shop.

The right pop-up shop balances cost, expected traffic, and brand awareness. According to Shopify, brands have a variety of options—including the following popular ones:

  • Vacant Storefront: Especially in the wake of the pandemic and lockdowns, vacant storefronts are common. If there’s somewhere in the right area, look into it.
  • Dedicated Pop-Up Rental Space: Many players make it easy to secure short-term rental spaces built explicitly for pop-up shops. Often, this may provide you a turnkey solution including everything you need to get started.
  • Mall: Kiosk, booth, or in-line store, the mall is going to be one of the easiest places to get started. Foot traffic is likely there, but this may be less cost-effective than other options.
  • Gallery or Event Space: Great for quick events (like the one we ran for Vans), galleries are ideal for running short-term pop-up spaces. These blank canvases give you the most freedom and could be part of a larger tour.
  • Mobile Pop-Up: Many DTC players don’t select one space—they take their show on the road. A mobile pop-up will allow you to visit multiple locations, interact with a wide range of audiences, and test bigger plans.

In addition to this, pop-ins combine pop-up with shop-in-shop. We discuss this further in our shop-in-shop article.

Making the Space

Though the location is temporary, the impression that you make isn’t. From the months and weeks leading up to the event to the post-mortems, getting the space right is going to be one of the most important things to making a lasting impression on shoppers. Exterior, interior, music, and more—a pop-up needs to represent you.


It’s the first thing that a shopper sees. It’s how you draw in people who may not know who you are, and it’s what sets the stage for the rest of your interaction. No matter whether you’re opening in a dedicated pop-up space, renting out a vacant storefront, choosing a pop-in, or have a spot in the mall, your exterior and entrance are key.

  • Start with the frontage. Create a welcoming space that encourages walk-in traffic. With likely limited signage, you’re going to want to make your frontage pop.
  • Make your entrance displays count. Entrance and exit displays are key to set the stage for the rest of the store. Ensure they create a lasting first impression and reinforce your brand.
  • Understand your signage options. Check to see if the location you’re looking at comes with signage. Know what options you have and know whether or not you are allowed to change things.


One of the hardest things to get right in a pop-up is the interior. As a temporary space, an investment in extreme customization may be a bit less lucrative. For short-term pop-ups, you may benefit from renting fixtures or keeping an otherwise basic space.

However, if you’re planning a longer rental or have multiple locations planned in the coming years, you may want to install custom fixtures that can create the look and feel you want. Shopify adds the following interior considerations:

  • Choose the right square footage for you. From socially-distanced shopping to browsing space, choose a space that is just right for your products, customers, and employees.
  • Know your backroom. Expect a lot of traffic, but don’t overstock your sales floor. Too much inventory on the sales floor can make your space look cluttered, and it benefits you to create a separate area able to keep your space professional and tidy.
  • Set the mood with lighting.  The right lighting for your store ultimately depends on the mood you want to create. If your brand is more modern, brighter lighting may work. Choose your lighting in a way that matches your brand and customers.
  • Focus on fixtures. The right fixtures complement your products. For instance, The Sill chose painted wood to create a warm and welcoming look, while Brooklinen and Citizenry opted to present their luxury with a varnished.
  • Select your music. Sights are important, so are sounds. Create a mood for guests that represents your brand. Furthermore, be sure that you have access to speakers in the first place. If not, bring your own.

Bringing Your Brand in-Store with Morgan Li

Getting physical retail right is tough. Finding a partner ready to take your vision to reality is even tougher. At Morgan Li, we’ve been the manufacturing partner trusted by some of the biggest names in the DTC world to build spaces and create lasting impressions.

Startups and expanding brands like Brooklinen, Away, The Sill, and more have all trusted us to build unforgettable shopping experiences during their push to open physical retail spaces. Here are just some of the projects we’ve completed:

Get to know more about us and reach out today!


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Cash wrap and perimeter displays at Brooklinen flagship in New York City. Custom retail fixtures by Morgan Li