Pop-Up #1 - London | Summer 2018

Melissa Bowden news

A Circle Back Summer Pop-Up | 26th July - 1st August 2018

The very first A Circle Back pop-up was in London, Redchurch Street and a huge success. I loved bringing together great brands under one roof and growing the reach of A Circle Back. It was hard work and not without stress or worry, but with so much fantastic support I really couldn't stop smiling. A huge thank you to everyone who helped to kickstart this project through crowdfunding and all the customers both in store and online for making the first ever pop-up a small triumph! 


The Lead Up

On the run up to the opening it was all about early morning trips to collect last minute or diverted orders from the post office, uploading final products to the website, making sure the inventory was up to date and ensuring all the plans were in place to make the shop run smoothly. I just had one day off work before opening the shop, something I'd do differently next time, but the adrenaline, support and excitement kept energies high!


Opening Day

On the morning of opening it was set to be a record 37 degrees in London. The lovely corner shop, found through Appear Here, was ready and waiting to be filled with product. We made the journey from South to East London at 5:30am in a very full car to set up shop. 


It was all hands on deck and my brother and his girlfriend helped immensely in the boiling heat. It was so hot my brother needed a cool down in Sainsbury's fridge aisle during the set-up! Whilst orders were collected from local east London brands including Kabin Shop ceramics, Sunday of London Candles and Petalon Flowers a friend and I finished unpacking and the set up. Thank you Sammy for the coffee and your great help as always. 

It was a small oven in the shop and there were moments of thinking 'what on earth am I doing?' but with very little sleep and lots of coffee we opened by 10:30am and instantly had customers coming into the store. 


The Week of the Pop-Up Shop

The week flew by. We experienced every weather apart from snow. It was boiling hot, which led to us selling out of Chilly's Bottles and South Hamman Towels in the first two days. We also sold our Dock & Bay Swimshorts to holiday goers and lido swimmers and our Park SSC footballs were the perfect accessory for a game of football long into the summer evenings. 

Later in the week it became dark and very windy. The sandwich board outside the shop flew across the road! Rain poured down on the Sunday where two of my friends manned the shop so I could go to my niece's 1st birthday party. They made sales on a day where you'd expect everyone to be huddled inside their houses. Sunday of London candles were bought with Land Chocolate bars and Dept Store for the Mind mugs in the bid for cosy evenings. Thank you Ailsa & Struan for being the best shop keepers. 


I also got to spend time shop keeping with one of my oldest friends for two of the days of the pop-up. She's a retail wizard and was up-selling product and refreshing the layout of the store look to make it beautiful as pieces sold. She also introduced me to the best veggie burger I've ever had from Patty & Bun. Thank you Viv for your humour, treats and hard work! 

The shop became a social hub and was a place where so many friends and family members came to visit. It was a week of seeing brilliant people in one place and made manning the shop by myself most of the time, feel the complete opposite. Thank you to everyone who made it by or showed their support from afar. Scroll down to the end of the article to see all the fantastic supporters I managed to snap! 

There was really good custom from people outside my immediate circle too. It was great to connect with people who loved hearing the story behind the brands and engaged with the pieces they bought learning more about the people and causes behind the products. Redchurch Street was a hub for tourists with its proximity to Shoreditch House and The Ace Hotel. People were willing to treat themselves to higher price point pieces such as our Emi & Eve jewellery made from discarded landmines or velvet cushions and wool throws from One Nine Eight Five

The store received a huge cross section of customers, which I was thrilled about. It was great to bring a collective of brands together which could appeal to a variety of customers and gift recipients.

Smaller items such as Botany London's mini pressed flower frames, Conchus soap and shampoo bars and KeepCups were picked up in passing by customers as smaller gifts for others 'just because' or for themselves. 


Thanks to my good friend Mary I was able to redefine my rambling into a more cohesive press release. She came up with the phrase 'Gifting Never Looked so Good' an all important hook for the shop.

I was delighted to get some great press clippings from London publications  Time Out London and The Londonist.


Online Pop-Up

In conjunction with the pop-up shop, I dual sited the stock that was in store, online. This meant teaching myself how to rebuild the website on a new platform, moving from Squarespace to Shopify - I'm still very much learning but it's such a necessary tool!

Importantly, it allowed customers who were unable to come to the store, to shop online. Initially the online store had slower trade, but it acted as a vital window to what we offered. Online sales were steady and usually higher value and by the end of trading, online sales accounted for 25% of the revenue, so it was well worth it. 

The online store allowed A Circle Back to reach audiences further afield too. International customers included people from Michigan, San Diego, New York, Nairobi, Berlin, Hamburg, Milan and Rome! 

Where possible for online orders I reused packaging that I had been sent stock in and used 100% recycled plastic tape. This stemmed from wanting to be as eco-friendly as I could and because particularly last Christmas I noticed how through online orders so much extra waste is created. I didn't want to make new waste but instead turned waste into a resource. This will be something I will look to continue as the business grows, looking into recycled packaging solutions and perhaps learn to use a little less tape! 



The Results

My purpose at the very start of the project was to highlight lesser known brands with good intentions, in one place. To be part of the brand mix these brands needed to give back to the world in someway by being eco-friendly, having a social impact, donating a percentage of their profits to charity, promoting sustainable living or being ethical. The idea grew from being a click-thru site and instagram into a pop-up shop and online store quite quickly. 

I wanted to launch a pop-up shop to realise the idea of A Circle Back in a physical space, in order to help market the concept to a wider audience. Being conscious of my budget and making sure the money I raised through crowd-funding was put to good use, I had worked out what I needed to sell in order to break even and bought product accordingly. A lot of brands were flexible with the order terms, which enabled a broader mix of product. It was so great to work with such interesting, intelligent and positive business owners. A huge thank you to all the brands that took part. 

I'm thrilled to say that the first store exceeded my expectations and has made enough profit to enable me to put it towards the majority of the rent for pop-up #2. Naturally, I want to grow the concept and pop-up #2 will be a bigger venture, with more space and more brands and run for a longer period! Make sure to sign up to the mailing list to be kept informed. 

Giving Back 

Most importantly the business brought to the brands involved and the money raised for remarkable causes has been terrific. At close we had 162 unique customers. 15 charities have received donations from crowdfunding and sales, ranging from causes that support education, disadvantaged children, sports, protecting the environment, the arts, eating disorders and the bees. 42 more people have reusable cups and bottles from Chillys BottlesKeepCup and Bahasa of the Sea , working towards a more sustainable future. 14 under-privileged kids have been passed a ball from sales of Park SSC balls. 6 babies in Uganda now have new blankets through sales of Hope & Fortune Blankets.

Thank you again to all that have been involved in making A Circle Back into a reality. It's proved the positive power of what people can do when we come together, giving a lot of hope in amidst the global chaos. 

Melissa x


Brands involved: Artisan and Fox, Bahasa of the Sea, Birdsong, Botany London, Chillys Bottles, Conchus, Dept Store for the Mind, Dock & Bay, Emi & Eve, Flock by Nature, Freya Lillie, From Babies with Love, Hope & Fortune Blankets, Kabin Shop, KeepCup, Land Chocolate, Lines and Current, One Nine Eight Five, Park SSC, Pebble Child, Petalon, Skin & Tonic London, South Hammam, Sunday of London, The Basket Room

Charities supported: BeatEdu Kid UKLend with Care, Malala FundMarie CuriePark SSC Partners, Plastic Oceans UKRhino Ark SOS Childrens VillagesStreet ChildSurfers Against Sewage, The Bee CollectiveTrees for CitiesUnseen, Young Urban Arts Foundation




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  • Glenda Bowden on

    Congratulations Lil – I am SO proud of you. Well done and keep on circling!!! xxx

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