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How to Create the Perfect Holiday Pop-Up Experience

Stephanie Vozza, Writer

This article is part of Square’s definitive guide on eCommerce best practices during the holidays. Explore the guide to learn how to curate a festive and stress-free shopping experience for your customers and stay competitive.

The end of the year is an important shopping season for retailers, representing as much as 30% of annual sales, according to the National Retail Federation. For some retailers, however, the fourth quarter is their only quarter. These seasonal businesses open for a limited time to serve specific holidays such as Halloween or Christmas.

If you’re thinking about opening a retail business, focusing on a specific holiday can be a good way to start building a customer base and growing your product offerings. It can also be a way to launch a homegrown business and turn a hobby into an additional source of income. Instead of just baking holiday cookies for the neighbors, why not sell them to a larger audience?

holiday ecom guide

Here are some best practices for launching your own seasonal business.

What to sell during the holidays

Seasonal pop-up retailers sell items that are designed for gift giving, and choosing what to sell is all about appealing to what your customers want most during the holidays. With a wide variety of choices, it can be best to focus on a theme or niche. It also helps if your products are something that excites you — it’s easier to sell something you love and believe in. Here are six ideas to get you thinking:

  1. Specialty cards: Exchanging holiday cards is a favorite tradition for many people, and selling specialty cards can be a good niche. Consider offering personalized cards, such as photo cards. Or sell unique cards that are handcrafted, whimsical, or humorous.
  2. Holiday sweaters: From festive to ugly, holiday sweaters are becoming increasingly popular. In fact, many people plan holiday parties around them. You can create a business that specializes in sourcing and selling them.
  3. Food and candy: Sweet treats are always a great gift idea. If you have a great recipe, consider making, packaging, and selling your goodies. Another idea is to package and sell food items in gift baskets or as specialty boxes.
  4. Holiday decor: Homeowners are always on the lookout for unique seasonal decor during the holidays. If you’re crafty, you can make and sell your own pieces. Or create a store around a theme, such as selling wreaths, ornaments, or vintage holiday decorations.
  5. Candles: Candles are another popular holiday gift. You can create a holiday store that sells scents of the season, transitioning from fall to winter holidays.
  6. Accessories: You could curate and sell unique accessories, such as jewelry, ties, hats, or even socks. Whether you source one-of-a-kind finds from thrift shops or craft them yourself, these items are highly giftable.
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Where to sell during the holidays

Temporary pop-up shops have seen great success, especially around the holidays — 61% of shoppers visit a pop-up shop to find seasonal products, according to a survey of consumers by PopUp Republic.

You can set up a physical pop-up shop by renting space in an empty storefront or setting up a display in a complementary business. A survey from short-term retail space marketplace Storefront found that 80% of companies that host pop-up stores consider them to be successful, and 58% say they’ll likely host another one.

While a physical pop-up is a good way to interact with customers, don’t overlook the idea of launching an eCommerce pop-up shop. Templates that showcase your products make it easy to launch a seasonal online store that can stand alone or augment your in-person experience. Customers are looking for unique items and gifts, especially during the holidays, so make sure your site conveys the fun and festivity of your business and what you have to offer.

Whether it’s offline, online, or both, a pop-up shop is only open for a short time so you’ll also want to invest in marketing. Social media is a quick way to reach a lot of people, and ads can be highly targeted to your customer base.

And be sure to start your marketing before you open, with “Coming Soon” posts to create buzz and excitement. Have your homepage ready before your products are loaded, and offer a way for visitors to sign up for your newsletter so they can have advance notice of your grand opening.

What to do after the holidays

When the season is over, the fun doesn’t have to stop. You can temporarily “close” your business by deactivating the products on your website. Out of sight can mean out of mind, though, so consider keeping your website active with information on when you’ll reopen. You could even build excitement by using a clock that counts down the days until your return.

Stay on your customers’ minds with an email newsletter. Thank them for their business, and then touch base throughout the year, sharing news and tips. About a month before you reopen, give your subscribers a sneak peek of your new products as well as coupons or details about your physical pop-up shop (if applicable).

Finally, take time to evaluate the success of your products and marketing. Identify your best sellers as well as your most effective campaigns. This information can help you prepare your strategy for next season.

Seasonal businesses should be fun — for you and your customers. The holidays are centered around joy. By creating a unique shopping experience, you’ll delight customers who can’t wait to come back again next year.

Having the right tools is essential for minimizing holiday shopping season chaos. From inventory management to eCommerce solutions, Square has all the tools you need to start, run, and grow your business — whether you’re selling in person, online, or both. And we’ve made all our tools to work together as one system, saving you time and money — and making decisions easier. Give yourself the gift of a unified business ecosystem and get started with Square today.

Stephanie Vozza is an experienced writer who specializes in small business and retail. She has been a regular columnist for FastCompany.com for five years, and her byline has appeared in Inc., Entrepreneur, and Parade.