Hiring for Pop-Up Shops: Your Guide to Finding Top Temp Talent

After you’ve secured the perfect space for your pop-up shop, you need to hire a team to run it! Understaffing your pop-up store can cripple sales and purchases:  Recent research from the MIT Sloan School of Management discovered that retailers could increase sales by as much as 10% with the appropriate sales associate-to-customer ratio.

With so many resources already invested in your pop-up store, hiring temporary staff can seem an expensive afterthought. But that mindset will end up costing you more.

“Stores need to move past the inclination to minimize cost by understaffing because it can have a big impact on profitability,” wrote visiting MIT professor Rogelio Oliva in MarketWatch. “When there aren’t enough sales associates, sales don’t reach their potential.”

If your temporary retail space doesn’t already come with staff on hand, here are steps to bring on the staff that will maximize return on your pop-up store investment.

How to Attract the Right Applicants

Temporary jobs are booming as companies shift their workforce from permanent to temporary workers to be more agile.

On a recent episode of her self-titled podcast, Chris Guillot of Merchant Method outlined how retail employers can conduct their hiring process in a way that attracts the right candidates and eliminates poor fits. Her main takeaway? You (as the interviewer) are modeling your expectations for customer service in the way you interview and hire.

“Candidates want the same thing as customers: To feel confident in the choice they’re making,” Guillot said. “You need to sell the job.”

Activewear retailer Outdoor Voices successfully tailored its job listing for a sales rep for one of their pop-up shops to entice job seekers:

“As an OV Brand Rep, you will be working on the front lines in our retail shops building a community of Outdoor Voices fans through engagement, product exploration, and customer service. We’re all about approaching activity with ease, moderation, humor, and delight. You should be able to approach Customer Experience the same way.”

Explaining their expectations for customer service helps candidates understand what Outdoor Voices values and whether they’re the right fit.

How to Recruit Top Talent

You know the hire you’re looking for. How on earth do you find them? As a pop-up shop, your three main options are to work with a recruiting agency, use a non-traditional retail hiring platform, or do it yourself.

Work With a Staffing Agency

Emerging Blue, 24 Seven and Mustard Lane are just a few staffing agencies with expertise placing talent in temporary retail. Emerging Blue alone worked with over 100 pop-up shops and clients in 2017.

Retail Hiring Management Platforms

New platforms like AllWork offer cloud-based hiring management software which you can use to source top retail talent in a nontraditional approach.

“We’re not a staffing agency in classical way,” says Glenn Laumeister, CEO of AllWork. “We’re using tech to do staffing, not people.”

AllWork’s platform works specifically with retail clients to provide a labor pool of over 25,000 retail professionals and the management software necessary to hire the right people efficiently. Since payroll and scheduling for stores are done within AllWork’s platform, you can factor in candidates’ past job performance easily, because that data is stored in one place.

“Pop-up shops want a higher level of engagement in stores, with staff representing their brand or premium product,” said Laumeister. “The best retail workers want to work for a retailer they believe in.”

Hiring Pop-Up Shop Staff on Your Own

Once you’ve written the temp job listing, you’ll need to publish it in places where top talent will find it, such as:

  1. Your website
  2. Job listing sites: Check out the free job posting sites like Indeed and ZipRecruiter or foreign candidate hiring platforms like Faruse if you are facing international customers
  3. Look within your existing network: Your own social networks could be full of brand advocates just waiting for their chance to jump on the team. Brands like Glossier and Everlane announce job openings for their pop-up shops on Instagram Stories organically because they want their staff to be true brand experts plucked from their own fan base.
  4. Don’t have an established influencer base? Reach out to fan groups associated with your brand or subculture on Facebook or other platforms.
  5. Place announcements that you’re hiring on any signage if you already have a brick-and-mortar store, and on digital and physical receipts.

How to Vet Candidates

You need to know what wakes a great temporary retail hire.

“The root is to [find] brand experts,” Gibree says. “It works well when there’s a good brand match, people with a love and knowledge of the brand.”

“You have to overhire about 40–50% for a pop-up shop,” Gibree advises. “Because it’s temporary, there is a fall-off period. Training more hires at the beginning prevents having to train more later and a loss in sales because of natural attrition.”

Onboarding New Employees: Train to Retain

Start off your training process by revisiting your employee handbook and making sure any sections outlining temporary staff expectations are up-to-date. Don’t have a handbook yet? Writing one protects both your employees and your company. You can work with a legal counsel to put one together or do it on your own via this guide from Square.

“You need training, a good intro to the brand to give hires as much information as possible,” Gibree says. “The best is to interact with the product itself and then hear from people who represent the heritage and focus of the brand so they can share the theory of their company.”

Keep your more experienced staff around, if not for the duration of your whole pop-up store at least during high-traffic periods. Gibree echoes that sentiment, advising that it helps to have at least one key expert on the floor.

Once your pop-up store ends, set yourself up for even smoother staffing in the future by focusing on your staff experience in your post-mortem analysis. Some questions to ask:

  • Who outperformed and why?
  • What qualities should you look for next time around?
  • What recruiting methods were most effective? Which were wastes of time?
  • What was your budget for hiring and training, and how can you save money or be more strategic next time?

After investing so much time into your pop-up store and the hires you placed within it, taking the time to evaluate your success can guide you in your future brick-and-mortar adventures.

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Alexandra Sheehan
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