Five Minutes With: Charles River Apparel Opened First-Ever Holiday Pop-Up

In December 2019, Sharon, Massachusetts-based supplier Charles River Apparel held a limited-time, holiday pop-up shop to benefit Christmas in the City, its long-time charitable partner and an organization dedicated to helping Boston-area families experiencing poverty and homelessness; the nonprofit has helped more than 4,000 children from local shelters so far. The pop-up was open December 3, 6 and 7 to friends, family and local customers and all items were marked at $15 or less with the intent to raise as much money as possible; 50 percent of the total sales were donated to the nonprofit. Each day, visitors experienced special treats and themes, including bring-a-gift, get-a-sweatshirt and a chance to win tickets to a Kansas City Chiefs/New England Patriots football game.

PPB This was the first year that Charles River Apparel has explored a limited-time, brick-and-mortar pop-up, along with an ecommerce shop. Can you share with us some details behind the campaign?

Lehnen As a family-owned business, we pride ourselves on giving back, and it’s a big part of our culture. When we took over the space next door to accommodate our growing business, we found ourselves with a storefront space that was going to be empty. Barry Lipsett, owner and CEO, has always wanted to find a way to connect with the local community and our customers, so we decided that a pop-up shop in support of one of our partners was the best option. The space was taken over in October so we had a lot of work to do to get it up and running. In less than two months, we flipped the space.

PPB What are some of the ways that Charles River Apparel marketed the pop-up shop?

Lehnen For this event, we relied on a lot of grassroots marketing. We promoted locally, handed out flyers to local businesses, posted on our social media pages, advertised in local newspapers, posted the event on more than 10 local event pages and encouraged our employees to spread the word. We even got a chance to promote it on a local radio station, 98.5, that was broadcasting live from a Christmas in the City event on Dec. 5. The spot brought in a lot of people who recognized me from the radio.

PPB What was the response to the pop-up shop?

Lehnen I’m estimating we had more than 500 customers visit us during the three days, which means more awareness for Charles River Apparel and Christmas in the City. We finished at $20,000 in total and 50 percent—$10,000—was donated directly to Christmas in the City. What’s great is the number of customers who referred their friends—word of mouth still works. Overall, everyone was excited about the deals and, more importantly, loved that they were helping to give back. We’ve done tent sales before where everything was in boxes and the customers who experienced both events said this one was much better and they really appreciated the shopping experience. Our $5 room was a huge success, too.

PPB Share with us a bit about the “double the giving” efforts that were inspired by this initiative.

Lehnen We had several people come in to buy so they could donate to various organizations, but my favorite story is about a woman named Virginia Trace (pictured above with Lehnen), the owner of Watson’s Candies in Walpole, Massachusetts. Virginia came in on the first day and purchased more than 100 pieces to donate to kids at the Home for Little Wanderers, but it didn’t stop there. When I stopped by to thank her and drop off a bag she missed—luckily for me, she’s on my way home—she offered up a special care package of Beanie Babies and chocolates to all the kids we sponsored for the Christmas in the City extravaganza on December 22. As if that wasn’t enough, she also came back on Friday and purchased another 60-plus pieces. We call this “double the giving” at its best.

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Danielle Renda is associate editor of PPB.

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