Selling Without a Store

1. Pop-up Shops: Embracing a Short-term Approach

Curvel Baptiste (Photo by Shayne Alexander)

The concept of pop-up shops: physical stores that retailers inhabit on a short-term basis, such as 30, 60, or 90 days. Some entrepreneurs use pop-up shops to test potential brick-and-mortar locations. Others, such as Juxster’s Baptiste, use them to occasionally connect face-to-face with their primary online clientele. Pop-up shops can be used to introduce consumers to a retailer’s brand, as well as create a sense of urgency among consumers.

To alert potential customers to upcoming pop-up shops, Baptiste sends e-mails to current customers, luring them with new products, low prices, and other incentives to check out the location. He also passes out fliers to attract local passersby.

Finding the right location has been one of Baptiste’s greatest challenges. “I do a lot of ground work, scouting out spots that no one’s paying attention to,” Baptiste says. He also approaches potential landlords with an abundance of cash since many are more likely to do business if you can pay the entire amount upfront, he adds.

Though pop-up shops demand a lot of effort for a little bit of time, in terms of stock and moving inventory, they can increase brand awareness and net impressive sales. “We’ve done anywhere from $1,000 to $1,500 in a day, [whereas] we’ve paid $1,300 in rent for the entire month,” Baptiste says.

Pop-up shops aren’t anything new, but the sluggish economy has given them a boost. “When we’re in good strong economic times, it is much more challenging to get a great location at a reasonable price,” says Norins. “But right now there are tons of location opportunities, and prices have come down.” As a result, many landlords looking to fill vacancies are willing to agree to short-term leases just to get someone in the door, giving business owners a golden opportunity.

2. Etsy and eBay: Pushing Online Marketplaces
There are countless stories of entrepreneurs starting on eBay and turning their hobbies into multimillion-dollar businesses. Some 25 million global eBay sellers accounted for nearly $62 billion in total sales volume in 2010. Sellers can list up to 50 items per month in the site’s auction format for free, or pay between $15.95 and $299.95 per month in subscription fees for online stores. With any of these options, sellers pay a commission for each sale.

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