Pop-Up Stores are a growing phenomenon within the retail industry – according to IBISWorld, the number of Pop-Up Stores increased by 16 percent between 2009 and 2012. This growth is understandable as temporary retail is a great way for businesses or would-be entrepreneurs to try something new without having to commit to a physical space. However, this new subsection of retail is also largely uncharted, and some businesses, under the mistaken assumption that temporary means safe, do not take the steps necessary to protect the investment that temporary retail requires. So if you are thinking about opening up a Pop-Up Store, consider taking the following precautions first.
1. Know your landlord and your lease.
The landlord-leaser relationship is a bit nebulous in Pop-Up retail. The landlord is, after all, agreeing to rent out a space for far less than usual since some rent is better than no rent. As a result, the retailer that is leasing the space has to contend with tighter restrictions and a ticking clock. When you begin to look for a space, try to actually talk to the person who owns it so you can discuss the terms of your lease and what is expected of you. Are you able to install fixtures? Between what hours are you allowed to operate? Under what conditions can the lease agreement be terminated early? You cannot ignore these types of questions just because you inhabit the space temporarily. One of the best ways to protect yourself from an angry landlord is to play by their rules, but first you have to know what those rules are.
2. Buy renter’s insurance
Most retailers sign onto annual insurance plans, and while that works for a business that inhabits the same space all year, an annual plan doesn’t work for a Pop-Up Store. Luckily, the growth of the pop-up industry has meant traditional retail insurance providers are offering their plans on a monthly basis and, though the month-to-month payment may be slightly higher than it would be if you signed an annual contract, you won’t be stuck paying for insurance you don’t need all year. Your landlord will require that you have insurance before you open up 99.9 percent of the time, so make sure you are covered. Tip: Pop-Up insurance is included when you book a retail space via thestorefront.com.
3. Separate your personal assets from the business’s debts
Incorporating or forming a limited liability company is one of the best ways to protect yourself as the process turns your business into its own, separate legal entity. That means it is responsible for its own debts, helping ensure your personal property will not be seized to pay for what the business owes. Now, turning your business into its own, separate legal entity is a good idea even if you weren’t thinking of opening a temporary retail space, but pop-up shops can require a serious investment. You need to rent fixtures, market your business, and buy extra stock to meet the increased demand that foot-traffic inevitably brings. By forming an LLC or incorporating, you get a wonderful bubble of protection for your personal property, allowing you to focus on making your pop-up shop a success.
Opening up your own Pop-Up Store is a very exciting experience, but any foray into physical retail will bring risks. You won’t be able to plan for everything, but you should protect yourself as much as possible. By knowing the ins and outs of your lease, having the right insurance, and turning your business into its own legal entity, you can help mitigate those risks and have a positive, profitable, pop-up experience.
Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation.com, an online legal and business filing service focusing on entrepreneurs and the small business community. Follow her on Google+ and on Twitter @deborahsweeney and @mycorporation.