Christmas markets are a welcome opportunity for pop up businesses to sell their wares and grow their network of customers. Consumers are only too eager to seek out these retailers, desperately looking for unique, bespoke and special gifts for loved ones. Much more prone to spontaneous purchases, consumers are spurred on by FOMO - a fear of missing out – brought on by the transient nature of the pop up.
Over recent years the pop up retailer sector has grown; in 2015 it made up 0.76% of total UK retail turnover, valued at £2.3 billion.
Pop ups appear to be the preferred way to start a business, with EE research suggesting two thirds of new businesses will begin life as a pop up. It offers a flexible business model which has lower overheads, but also a way to establish a customer network and build a loyal brand following, all based from an initial memorable face to face interaction. The flexibility provides entrepreneurs with a platform to try out different ideas and the ability to easily scrap or rework ideas without a huge cost commitment.
And the public love them - 44% of UK consumers visited a pop up shop in 2015. Particularly around Christmas time: retailers gather in Christmas markets to offer their goods alongside a steady stream of excited shoppers, locals and tourists, sipping warm mulled wine cupped in gloved hands, listening to traditional Christmas songs and the cheers of other revellers. The boom is apparent in the number of Christmas markets hosted across Europe, at least 282 have been recorded for 2016, 92 of which are in the UK.
It is not just start ups that attend Christmas markets. Established international brands, former pop ups that have successfully become established businesses and local retailers are all present, hoping for a slice of the pie.
For merchants however there are still significant problems to overcome to ensure they are as efficient and profitable as possible. 30% of retailers are unable to process card payments, rising to 40% of small retailers. The reason why - 44% of retailers find the cost of traditional point of sale systems too expensive. By not accepting card payments, these retailers risk losing on average £500 in sales a year. The size of card purchases tends to be of greater value: credit card purchases amount to £42 on average, debit card are £27 and cash is £11 per transaction.
By not offering payment by card, pop up retailers are losing business, particularly those spontaneous purchases, which may not happen after the customer has counted out the physical cash and reassesses the deal’s value.
Even when pop ups can facilitate card payments, many report problems with connectivity and processing times, which impacts upon the overall customer experience and consequently the pop up’s brand. It can cause the retailer considerable stress and even result in sales falling through if waiting times are too long, particularly during extremely busy periods, when speed and efficiency of payment are key. 32% of retailers said they worry about not having the right technology to realise their ideas. Mobile points of sale and 4G connectivity are increasingly important.
Ideally retailers need portable, mobile, cheap, light-weight and foolproof solutions. Retailers need to have compliant, secure, quick, easy and stress free systems. Pop ups are generally more nimble and not tied to complicated legacy systems, able to switch to omnichannel technologies and mobile payment options.
Innovative systems such as mCashier, recently launched by SIX Payment Systems in Austria, Switzerland and Belgium can turn the smartphone or tablet into a mobile POS terminal, at which customers can pay as usual with their credit or debit card. The built-in NFC card reader allows quick, contactless payments, ideally suited for mobile retailers and service companies and markets.
With Christmas markets and pop-up shops continuing to flourish, consumers will increasingly look for and expect a similar payment experience that can be found in conventional retailers. Be it nutcrackers, stollen cake or Glühwein, Christmas markets and pop-up shops are here to stay.