British bakers are popping up in the most unexpected places: fashion stores, a hardware shop basement and even a Japanese department store. But their appearance can be fleeting part of the ’pop-up’ phenomenon that helps a host store attract more customers by creating a buzz for a few days or weeks. For a bakery, it’s the chance to test the waters in another location, or a way for a start-up cake-maker to discover if they’ve got what it takes.

Pastry chef Claire Clark has taken up the offer of opening a pop-up patisserie at London’s Harvey Nichols for two months, offering treats such as Jaffa cake macaroons, traditional fruit loaf cakes and spelt cake. And she’s not the only one to pop up at the big London stores, as trendy cupcake makers are being invited along to treat clothes shoppers. These chic bakers are boosting their fashion credentials by hooking up with shops and designers for example, Primrose Bakery had a pop-up tea room at the Anya Hindmarch handbag designer store on Sloane Street, while Ella’s Bakehouse ran a cupcake pop-up shop at the Oxford Circus Topshop during London Fashion Week earlier this year. But more traditional craft bakers are getting in on the act too: Judges Bakery in Hastings has had a stand in Selfridges, displaying bread and pink meringue pigs, as well as one in Topshop during London Fashion Week.

So how do you go about getting a pop-up shop? The Popupspace company acts as a go-between putting tenants and landlords together for short-term leases. Director Rosie Cann reports that there has been an enormous increase in the awareness of the pop-up concept in the last couple of years, from marketing companies wanting space for promotional campaigns to new businesses wanting a foothold in the market. Says Cann: "There are a lot of empty shops about, but the difficulty is talking landlords into doing it you have to get lease agreements and insurance. But for tenants, it enables them to access high street space for often low rent, without having to sign up for a long lease." She recommends companies secure space for at least six weeks, because landlords can then get relief on empty property rates.

Filling a gap

Meanwhile, other bakers have found that the opportunity has come to them. Sarah Wilson, who runs Hey Little Cupcake in Manchester, opened a pop-up shop selling her cakes at a unit in the Spinningfields retail and housing estate in August after the estate operators made contact on Twitter. "They were looking for a cake brand to fill a retail outlet that was empty," she explains. "They aren’t charging me as much as they would a big brand and it’s great to have the opportunity."

Having only set up the company in April, she was selling 200 cakes a week in August, but now sells about 2,000. "I want to secure a permanent unit here now and would also like to do another pop-up shop in another city," says Wilson. "It has been a great way of testing the market and building my brand."

Another baker who has leapt at the pop-up opportunity is Cotswolds-based bakery and tea rooms Huffkins, which has the daunting task of creating a pop-up tearoom in Hankyu Corporation’s department store during the British Fair in Osaka, Japan this month. The store picked Huffkins after a UK fact-finding tour to find a company who sold the best cream teas. As a result, it will be taking bakery staff and local Cotswolds ingredients to Japan to bake 6,000 scones.

"It’s a huge challenge but we want to make sure the scones are authentic," says marketing consultant Maddy Robinshaw. "It’s the first time we’ve done anything like this, but we saw it as a way of raising our profile." Huffkins hopes the publicity will enable it to start a website, so that it can sell the cream teas internationally.

Contacting a retailer direct can also be a way of getting a pop-up store, especially if you’ve got an unusual venture to promote, such as Eat Your Heart Out, the world’s first 18-plus cake shop. This event, taking place from 28-31 October, is being organised by Emma Thomas, aka Miss Cakehead.

The wacky concept will be staffed by zombies and stocked by bakers and confectionery creators around the UK; on the menu are 666 of the ’most extreme cakes’ each day, including cakes that scream when cut into. Says Thomas: "I asked the shop if we could have the space and, as they are doing their first pop-up event during London Fashion Week, they were keen to do another one. They consider it an art project and it should encourage footfall for them. Everyone benefits."