How pop-up shops work for the businesses who use them

Streetwear line Friday Knights uses opportunity to test out retail model

Olek created his clothing line to fill a gap in local streetwear companies. 

The pop-up format allows Olek to see if his line is well suited for retail.

In 2010, Eric Olek was inspired to get involved with Winnipeg’s hip-hop and nightlife communities. The creation of his clothing line, Friday Knights Clothing, allowed him to do this.

“One day I figured if I started a clothing line, I could actually put out designs that interested me and fill a gap in the Winnipeg fashion market, as there weren’t many streetwear companies making moves at the time,” Olek says. “The name came to me while I was mopping floors at a convenience store on a Friday night, wishing I was pursuing a passion instead.”

Olek has now opened two pop-up shops, the first through the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ’s Launch It! - an incubator program to help young entrepreneurs acquire a temporary space to sell their products. That’s where he met and partnered with artist Josiah Koppanyi, owner of Josiah Galleries.

“(The first) pop-up shop opened in June of this year,” Olek says. “They had an old Warehouse One on Portage Avenue that was sitting empty and Friday Knights, along with Josiah Galleries, was selected to breathe some life into downtown.”

After the first pop-up shop closed, Olek applied for the second through Centre Venture’s PUSH program and invited Koppanyi to join him on a joint pop-up opening venture.

“The biggest thing I like about a pop-up shop is having a branded headquarters to call my own,” Olek says. “There is no long-term commitment, which allows us to review our marketing efforts and sales to see if we are suited to make a go of retail in the future.” 

The challenge, Olek says, is devoting his time both to the fixed, physical space of a pop-up shop while sustaining efforts as a full-time entrepreneur. Despite this, Olek is already scoping out possible spaces for the next venture. 

“I hope we can land another pop-up shop after this, while there aren’t any other city initiatives that we haven’t already tapped into, there are a lot of vacant spaces,” Olek says. “One day I hope to have a fixed location for Friday Knights in Winnipeg or whatever city I end up in.” 

Alesha Frederickson, former independent business operator and clothing designer of March & August Underthings, compares the experience of running her business from home and through pop-up shops. 

“There were many pros and cons to working at home - it’s the most inexpensive way. It can be great because it’s right there,” Frederickson says, “but it can also be very stressful to have your work always around you.”

Fredrickson’s opinion on pop-up shops is mixed. She says they allow local artists a space to come together, but it is also difficult for buyers to try on garments in such a busy environment, discouraging them from waiting to try on the products. 

“It was so amazing to meet people face to face, and for new people to see the product,” Frederickson says. “It really does cut into how much the makers earn on those days, and some people can’t justify the price of renting space with the price of the items they sell (but) it’s a hard balance to achieve.”

Friday Knights is collecting goods for Winnipeg Harvest in store at 433 Graham Ave. until Dec. 5 and will give 15 per cent off a purchase with a donation. 

Published in Volume 71, Number 12 of The Uniter (November 24, 2016)

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