Pop-Ups in Your Community

Communities are a mixed bag of residential and commercial interests, and there are times when these interests match.

When a retail space is vacant, it can be unsightly to visitors, decrease foot traffic, and even contribute to the decrease of property values. If the number of vacant spaces in a community increases, then the effects can be compounded.

To help find permanent residence for a vacant retail space, help maintain or increase foot traffic and visitors, and protect property values, a temporary retail store (pop-up) is an exciting and attractive solution that's tried and tested across cultures, nations, and time.

Why Support a Pop-Up Shop?

There are a variety of great reasons to encourage pop-up shops in your community!

  • Decreased commercial vacancy
  • Improved foot traffic
  • Increased local spending
  • Increased traffic from members outside the community
  • Improved image / decreased unsightly vacant store fronts
  • Happier landlords who otherwise may not have been able to rent their vacant space
  • Increased opportunity for local community members to find work
  • Improved chances of vacant spaces being rented full-time
  • Potential decrease in local crime levels
  • Potential increase in local property values (as commercial vacancy rates drop)


Community members or organizations may want to consider the following before supporting a new pop-up shop:

  • High (usually greater than 15%) commercial vacancy rates
  • Adequate access for pedestrians to the pop-up shop’s chosen location
  • Access to pop-up shop owner’s business plan (usually a brief summary) and contact information
  • Is there a community entity, such as a Business Improvement Area (BIA), that will recruit / select pop-up tenants, or is it in the hands of the landlord?
  • Does the pop-up shop reflect the community in a positive light?
  • Will the community, or a community entity, promote the pop-up shop?
  • Will the community, or a community entity, support a pop-up shop financially?
  • Will the community, or a community entity, offer supportive services (such as helping setup the pop-up shop)?

Potential Responsibilities of the Community

Depending on existing community entities, such as a BIA, may want to commit to some basic responsibilities to encourage pop-up shops entering their neighborhood, and the success of said pop-up shops!

  • Contacting landlords or property owners to help pop-up shop entrepreneurs find the right location, and negotiate a mutually beneficial rental agreement
  • Develop systems to help landlords or property owners accept pop-up shop applications
  • Respond to inquiries by pop-up shop entrepreneurs, landlords, and local community members
  • In the event of multiple pop-up shop requests for the same space, help landlords and property owners with developing criteria to rank applications
  • Help develop marketing plans to promote the local community, including new and existing pop-up shops
  • Execute developed marketing plans, and reach out to local community members (as well as those in nearby communities) to increase traffic and interest
  • Assist with signage and grand opening of new pop-up shops
  • Coordinate volunteers and landlords to clean and prepare vacant spaces to be rented
  • Liaise between landlords and pop-up shop entrepreneurs if necessary

Obstacles to Renting a Space

There can be numerous hurdles to overcome to renting a space to a pop-up shop entrepreneur. Each location will have its own unique set of obstacles, but some common obstacles are:

  • Landlords believe that their space will be rented full-time in the near future
  • Landlords believe that renting their space to a pop-up shop will be too cumbersome
  • Landlords who have trouble managing their property for any number of reasons
  • Landlords who are assembling properties for redevelopment or permanent sale
  • Properties that are represented by a real-estate agent (who will not earn a commission on a pop-up rental)
  • Financial incentives (usually offered by governing bodies) to maintain an empty spaceShort-term rentals
  • Short-term rentals may seem undesirable
  • A disconnect between the products / services of a pop-up shop and the personal beliefs of a landlord
  • Pop-up shop entrepreneurs who seem unprepared to develop and launch their pop-up
  • Pop-up shop entrepreneurs who don’t have adequate financial backing
  • Local city construction which can limit customer traffic

Community Testimonials

These two videos demonstrate how pop-up shops can work as an economic renewal project. This local project in one Toronto east end neighbourhood focused on filling empty stores, growing small entrepreneurs and revitalizing commercial strips.

Watch these short videos to find out how pop-up shops helped decrease commercial vacancies from 17% in 2012 to 6% in 2016 in along Danforth East in Toronto, Ontario.