The Ivy, Pip & Rose and Firain Pop Up Shop opened on August 30th 2019, and for four dizzy days we were immersed in shopkeeper life in our little town of Criccieth. So many of you have followed along with our summer adventure that we thought a blog post showing the behind the scenes would be a fun idea. We have also answered some of the questions you asked us on instagram, but if you’re curious about anything else, do leave them in the comments and we will happily answer them!
The Beginning Bit - are we crazy?
A sign appeared in the window of the old craft centre building in Criccieth. The owner was offering it as storage space - it’s huge and in a wonderfully central location. Its a building that I would peer into with my Dad and say, 'that would make an amazing shop for Firain.' After my Dad died in January, I couldn't shake the idea of bringing my small shop to life. I could hear him saying, ‘just give it a go!’ I was secretly hoping that my best friend florist Rebecca from Ivy, Pip & Rose would join me. I gently introduced the idea back in June:
Jo: "I am thinking of doing a pop up shop in that empty, unloved building in the centre of town."
Rebecca: "Sounds good. I'll join you."
And so our pop up journey began! We are both women with vision and resourceful streaks, but we knew we had our work cut out for us with this project! We also knew that we'd have to juggle it all between our normal working weeks. We rolled up our sleeves and with the help of Team Firain and Team IPR, we got to work.
The Middle Bit - Hard Graft
The first task was cleaning the shop. It had been empty and unloved for a long time. We scrubbed and dusted and hoovered and made countless trips to the tip. Although laborious, it was a good process to go through as we could have a really good think about what we wanted to achieve from the space. This part was definitely the most exhausting and most people doing a pop up shop wouldn't take on this extra work. We decided that since we wanted to bring a space back to life, sprucing it up in this way was worth it.
We decided to rip up the smelly floor tiles which helped to rid the shop of its infamous damp odour! So many locals commented on the lack of stench so we were happy that we took the time to do this! We ripped up the sticky fabric in the old counter and lined it with brown paper. We raided our own paint cupboards and spent hours and hours painting the existing display shelving (Mama Firain got stuck in to this), the walls, the backdrops in the shopfront windows and anywhere that needed a quick refresh. We spent time taking down the old signage, defunct CCTV cameras and redundant shop fittings. This sounds brutal but stripping the building back to its bare bones was part of the reason we think the end result worked for us and it hopefully means that if others use the space they won’t have as much to do to make it shop-ready.
One of the biggest decisions was working out the shop layout. We had a few aims in mind: we wanted to merge our offerings but also have space to present our own products and brand stories. We wanted the shop to feel welcoming and easy to mooch around, even for those with difficulties walking or with pushchairs. We wanted to use the existing counter (which Ben then used as his coffee-tasting area!) and we knew we wanted a seating area where reluctant or weary shoppers could relax. We wanted the shop to feel more like an enjoyable experience that just a retail space.
We decided early on that we only wanted to use half of the huge shop floor, so we needed an inexpensive solution to divide the space. Whilst I was pinning grand ideas of plywood wall divides during a delusional moment, Rebecca - who has so much experience styling wedding venues and events - had the brilliant idea of hanging calico (that we cut into panels) from cheap bamboo poles; this solution created a neutral backdrop that completely transformed the space, and we knew we could reuse the calico for other projects.
Rebecca's dad helped us bring our simple window display ideas to life by making wooden plinths, on which we arranged a little bit of Firain stock and some gorgeous eye catching plants. We hung mounting boards from The Range from the ceiling to create a really simple backdrop in our brand colours.
We then worked out how to utilise our own furniture to display the varied stock from Firain and the striking plants and flowers that Rebecca had ordered. We anchored the seating area by painting a 'rug' on the bare concrete and used blackboard paint and chalk to write the story of how Rebecca and I met and a little about our businesses. Rebecca sourced the gorgeous neon ‘bloom’ sign and Ben hanging it up on the blackboard wall was a finishing touch.
The End - The Grand Opening and Shop Life
On the morning of Friday 30th August, we asked Criccieth local Robin from the cafe next door to cut a piece of string and officially open the shop! I actually shed a tear; we were exhausted and a little stressed and it was a relief that we had managed to bring a dream to life! Rebecca’s flowers and plants looked utterly beautiful. The Poblado Coffi was brewing nicely. The Firain stock was shining.
We had a brilliant boost on Saturday when a bunch of our best friends arrived from London! The 5am start hadn’t put them off; they unfolded themselves from the car and quickly became our shop assistants!
We were so grateful for all the kind comments about the shop and that the work we’d done had paid off…we especially loved that some customers came in a few times over the weekend! Rebecca had wonderful feedback about her plants and flowers and each day, bouquets, plants and Firain treats were bought and we watched as happy shoppers walked down the high street with their goodies. It was wonderful to talk face to face with people about our businesses.
We were so happy to meet a huge range of customers, from Criccieth locals to visitors to existing customers that we know through social media. Firain makers Callie Jones and Carissa Tanton were able to pop in, which was such a treat. Each day had its own vibe - Saturday was a highlight as Rebecca's flower crown workshop filled the shop with excited children and parents and it felt like a really energised space. Even as we were packing up to close on Monday evening, we had customers who wanted to shop local and support our mini venture.
Your Pop Up Shop Questions Answered
These questions were asked on Instagram whilst the pop-up shop was in full swing but I didn't get a chance to answer!
Q: I do not really understand the concept..?
A: This is the Wikipedia definition: 'Pop-up retail, also known as pop-up store or flash retailing, is a trend of opening short-term sales spaces that last for days to weeks before closing down, often to catch onto a fad or timely event.' It's not a common occurrence in our town, so we knew the idea would create a bit of a buzz.
Q: What made you decide to do a pop-up shop?
A: The biggest reasons were firstly, meeting local people who could be potential clients and customers. Since we both run our businesses from home, Rebecca and I were excited to get into the community a little more and share what we do with a local audience. Secondly, we both have dreams of opening our own bricks and mortar spaces and this was an affordable, low-risk way to test the concept!
Q: Is this permanent or only for the weekend? Are you planning to open again?
A: This version was just for the weekend but since the space is available you never know we might try it again!
Q: Would you team up with more businesses next time?
A: Honestly and frankly, we would have to seriously think about this. Rebecca and I work well together, we have a similar aesthetic and we have the same outlook on our creative businesses.
Q: What has been the highlight?
A: For me, meeting humans was a highlight! I am becoming more and more introverted and this was quite a good way to reconnect with people and talk about creative things. It was also really good to have the endless support of our gorgeous families, and to work along with Ben in a creative way. Rebecca’s highlight was receiving such brilliant feedback and nice comments about the work we’d done in the shop. She also had lots of compliments about her blooms and design style - people were so pleased to see more unusual flowers and plants.
The Nitty Gritty to think about when opening a Pop Up Shop
When to open - The shop was available to us for the whole summer. Ben and I had commitments over the August bank holiday weekend so we decided to open the shop the weekend after, which some were really disappointed about. Although I am sure we could have made more sales with a busier shop, the more relaxed atmosphere meant we could catch our breath and we could have proper chats with our customers. Know your market. We decided that if we were to run the shop again, we would consider closing on Sunday (because Criccieth is very quiet) and perhaps opening for more days during the week. We would also perhaps hold a pre-opening shopping evening to create a buzz; we held a small gathering on Friday night but we were tired and so many friends couldn't make it because of other commitments. We loved meeting those that did come and it was a nice way to pause before the weekend.
Insurances - Ben shopped around and decided to go with a Hiscox 12 months Public and Product Liability for £196 plus an insurance of stock held on and off the premises.
Security and safety - Is the building secure? Do the neighbours know how to contact you if anything happens overnight? Do you have items that you need to bring home each night? Do you have cameras in store? Have you done a risk assessment? Do you have clear fire exit signs?
Stock control: Rebecca and I both had challenges with our stock. Plants and flowers are perishable, so how much do you order? What do you do with any leftovers? As a gift shop owner, my sleepless nights were around ordering too much stock, worrying that people would gasp at the prices and worrying that anything at all would sell. How much investment do you make in an untested idea? This was the biggest area of concern and risk.
Staffing - Between Rebecca, Ben and I we were able to keep the shop open for four days, and Rebecca had extra adult help for the flower crown workshop. If you are thinking of running a pop-up shop of this size, you might think you alone can cover it all but having a strong team is vital. Planning ahead for lunches and dinner is something I would definitely work harder on next time! Our seating area came in handy when we needed to rest.
Thank you so much for following our small businesses and joining us in this summer project!
x Jo and Rebecca x