Party Pro Tempore: West Elm On Running a Successful Pop-Up Event

Party Pro Tempore: West Elm On Running a Successful Pop-Up Event

Pop-up events give people the chance to discover the small businesses making one-of-a-kind products in their communities. For the vendors involved, though, they present the opportunity to tell their personal stories. This is particularly important for the artists, handcrafters, and makers that might not have an already established footprint in the area. And for years West Elm Fenway has helped make it happen, hosting weekly pop-ups out of its location at 160 Brookline Ave.

The Fenway’s home and kitchen accessory outlet has been hosting weekend pop-ups for some time now, highlighting the best in high-quality products from some of the most talented vendors you might not be familiar with just yet.

“We have our regulars,” says Susan Allen, visual associate at West Elm. “But we always keep our eyes and ears peeled for new people, or a friend of a friend, or somebody who is just starting to make something. We kind of give them that first opportunity.”

Hosting such an event isn’t as simple as “if you build it they will come.” No, hosting a pop-up requires a lot of a work and knowhow. So we got Susan to give us some tips on what it takes to spread the word and run an organized pop-up event.


1. Proper Advertising

This is a two-pronged endeavor. On one hand, you need to advertise the event itself to get customers in the door. Before that, though, the store needs to advertise to vendors to get them on board so there is an event to begin with. For West Elm, social media has proved effective for both.

“We do calls on Instagram and we get everyone. From someone who knits, to painters, to ceramicists, jewelers, we’ve had dog treats before. So that’s a good way to reach out to people you maybe wouldn’t come across on a daily basis,” says Allen. “Usually Thursday or Friday, the posts will begin to include who’s coming for the weekend. I think people definitely know the schedule and they keep an eye out.”

2. Engagement

“It’s not enough for vendors to merely show up and plop down with their goods, impressive though they might be,” Allen says. “They have to balance being communicative without coming off as pushy.”

“It’s especially tough here because people walk in and I think sometimes assume they’re West Elm employees,” says Allen. “So, it’s having the presence to say, ‘thanks for coming in this weekend. I’m hosting a pop-up, I’m making ceramics,’ or what have you, and telling a backstory. Rather than going right into trying to sell it. The best aspect of it is the local aspect. So talking about your story and why you’re here is the best part. People love that.”

3. Identifying Appropriate Price Points

If you’re a vendor, Allen suggests keeping in mind who’s hosting the pop-up when it comes time to price your products. Customers might have expectations based on the host, and working to meet those can be beneficial.

“We try to keep things around our price point,” says Allen. “People who walk into West Elm expect a certain price point. We’re not going to be as expensive as maybe Restoration Hardware, but we’re also not IKEA.”

4. Cater Events to the Hosting Cities

For many, one of the most appealing parts of attending a pop-up event is discovering local vendors. As such, it’s effective to cater to the hosting city or neighborhood.

“A lot of our local pieces are Boston prints, or stuff from local artists who make cityscapes out of letters that spell out Boston, things like that,” she says. “We get some great traffic from people walking to The Fenway on their way by. The marathon goes right by us. We definitely cater to that hardcore Boston fan.”

Be sure to check in with West Elm in the Fenway on weekends, beginning January 7th, to see which new and familiar vendors will be there, sharing their handcrafted, artisan home goods. Here’s a full list of upcoming events, and noteworthy vendors that will be in attendance, for the month of January and into February: 


West Elm Fenway
Fenway Triangle, 160 Brookline Ave, Boston, MA 02215

1/14 Hearth and Harrow
1/21 Color Me Happy by Melissa 
1/22 Michelle Throws Things
1/28 Ceramic Babes 
2/11 Acebo Jewelry


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