Illustration: iStock Illustration: iStock

The retail pop-up shop is a well-established but growing trend in North America. The problem is it’s not always a straightforward process for businesses to find temporary space, nor for landlords to secure short-term tenants.

That’s why Linda Farha launched pop-up go last fall. The online service allows landlords to list their properties, while prospective tenants—whether they be retailers or event planners—can search through the available spaces. Think of it as Airbnb for pop-ups. Farha explains how she plans to build on the concept.

PROFITguide: Where did the idea come from?

Linda Farha: We also run a communications and marketing company [Zenergy Communications] and we’d get asked on many occasions, “We’ve got a new brand that we want to launch, or a new concept we want to test, and we’re looking for an event space.” So it came to mind several years ago, and I realized there’s really a need for something like this. There’s no website in Canada today that offers it. There are some in Europe and the U.S., but the concept was really validated when I went to a trade show related to shopping malls last week, and nobody knew of any services like this.

What kind of interest has there been so far?

Right now we have listings across Canada, and a few from the U.S. as well. The goal is to hit 500 listings by mid-March. Most of the interest has been in Toronto and Vancouver. But on the landlord side, they have difficulties in secondary markets and less-trafficked zones. There’s a bit of a disconnect there, but at the same time, there are some great opportunities in secondary markets. Not everyone is targeting urban buyers.

How are you going to get to 500 listings?

At the end of the day, it’s about networking. One-on-one meetings with large landlords are crucial. Once you take the idea to one player in the organization, they’ll take it to others, and they’ll jump on board. These players don’t want to spend a lot of time on something that’s going to be a three-month lease; they want something that’s going to be a 10-year commitment. So something like this is a win-win for them.

What’s the revenue model?

Right now, we don’t have any revenue. But if you’re posting space, you can post up to 10 for free. When you exceed 10 listings, you have to pay us $100 per month. And we’ve offered to do the data entry for them, so we’re helping facilitate that. For the searcher, it’s free, unless you want push notifications about listings that match your requirements. And that’s $25 per month. Then there’s something else we offer: If you’re a new retailer or startup and you don’t have the manpower or infrastructure to conduct events or promote a popup, any service that Zenergy offers, we’ll be offering through pop-up go. What differentiates us from some of the other players in Europe is that we don’t take a percentage of the transaction.

What else do you have planned for the site?

In the next month or so, we’re going to have something called Marketplace, where vendors, such as a lighting company, that [are] vetted by us will be able to join our preferred vendor list. They’ll have to pay a nominal fee. The amount of dollars we’re talking about with pop-up go are minimal, so we’re really looking to have a lot of volume, and multiple touch points.

Why are pop-up shops still a popular idea?

Shopping centres in general have a lot of vacancies. Retail these days is very different with the growth of online shopping. The brick-and-mortar experience is almost something that supplements the online experience. So shopping centres are looking to have experiential concepts, and pop-up stores and events are filling that gap.

What do you think of Farha’s plans for pop-up go? Share your (constructive) thoughts and feedback in the comments below.


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