Custom displays make small spaces great.

When it comes to retail spaces, it seems that downsizing is here to stay.  New stores and remodels of existing locations are focused on increasing sales and improving customer experiences in less square feet.

While there are multiple drivers to this trend, there are a few factors that really stand out:

  • No more backroom inventory: Product suppliers are more responsive and can ship more quickly than ever before, minimizing the need for the retailer to maintain high levels of replenishment inventory.  Most retailers are striving to keep shelves stocked with “just in time” shipments as opposed to having a backroom stocked with extra inventory
  • Location, location, location: Building a retail presence around a smaller footprint gives a business the flexibility to develop locations that are more accessible for their customer base, particularly in urban areas.
  • What was old is new again: In the days when “mom and pop” stores ruled retail, service was much more personal and stores were an important part of every neighborhood.  National and regional retailers are striving to achieve this dynamic with retail environments that recreate a strong sense of community.

Even though retail spaces are shrinking, keeping the right mix of products in-store is as critical as it has always been, regardless of the number of locations or name recognition.  Chuck Lee, Director of Creative Strategy at Vulcan Industries says “80/20” is still the rule. “There’s a saying in the industry that 80% of your sales come from 20% of your SKUs. Stocking that 20% is critical in the downsized retail environment.”

Equally important is what you do with the items in a retail store where space is at a premium. In Chuck’s experience, retailers face a number of challenges when they decide to put themselves into a smaller box and “one of them is storage, because in the past a retailer had a back stockroom that was up to 50% of their space, but now retailers have realized that’s wasteful and have decided to either convert some of it to showroom space or have chosen to get rid of that storage and put their stock on the showroom.” Having less stock and moving it onto the salesfloor makes a lot of sense, but to do it right takes careful consideration.

There’s a good case to be made for custom displays and fixtures being even more important in

a restrictive retail space. A retailer doesn’t have as much space to do the things like showcase a new product. Chuck emphasizes the need to have a well thoughtout plan, and in his experience, the best solutions typically involve custom fixturing because in a small store “the stock designs just don’t work anymore, you waste too much space and you have to fit too much stuff together in a closer space.” Chuck goes on to say that “custom displays allow you to maximize the space that you have.” Knowing the need to be smart with every square inch of space, a fixture designer can create unique solutions that work with the space and enhance the retail customer experience.

For instance, say there’s unused space under a display that can be transformed into stock storage. If considered at the beginning of the creative process, this area can be designed as a cohesive element within a custom fixture. This type of custom store fixture has the added benefit of making it easier to replenish items since the stock is right there. At its core, a custom fixure is built from a more inquisitive process, as Chuck puts it, “we know the standard way to display something, the question is, is there a better way to display that allows us to get more onto the same footprint?” Whereas a typical stock fixture might hold 10 items, a custom design could perhaps double that capacity due to the fact that the designer has the freedom to create the best solution for a specific need.

Yet another way custom retail displays improve the small store environment is in the use of technology to enhance the customer experience. “Maybe there’s five SKUs that you want to demonstrate but don’t have room for, a touchscreen for those products could be placed on a display,” as Chuck noted, customer’s could then view the display to learn all that’s relevant about those products. The information provided would take up only minimal space. Sending product information to the customer’s phone is another rapidly growing use of technology that can overcome the limitations of a smaller space.

The options continue to expand for retailers as the technology matures, there’s even the possibility of custom displays that can suggest other products. Perhaps it’s an apparel rack with a monitor that can suggest color options based on the item you just pulled off the rack. And if you liked what you saw, you could order that color at the monitor. That’s the type of solutions custom fixtures can give small space retailers.

Cost is always a concern. In general, a custom display will cost more than a generic alternative, but the cost can be reduced through the use of high volume materials and processes. Other things that should be factored into the purchase are the branding benefits custom fixtures can provide a retailer. The ability to add color and graphics to a custom display allow it to become an avenue for brand reinforcement. A custom fixture or display can also be designed with flexibility in mind that allows the retailer the option to reconfigure for seasonal merchandising or new product categories, it can even be made to foldup for storage or become an entirely different component in the store—like a table. With a custom display you pay a little more, but you get more as well. As retailers continue to look to downsizing their store footprints, custom displays and fixtures will also continue to grow in importance.

How Gondola Shelving Drawers Simplify Inventory Control

The retail market is getting more and more competitive every day. As new brick-and-mortar stores open, online shopping continues to thrive. With the trend to downsize – or “rightsize” – retail space continuing to gain momentum, maintaining product inventory to meet consumers’ needs in a smaller footprint becomes more challenging. And, to stay competitive, retailers must continue to find new ways to lower their prices, minimize overhead, and maintain profit margins.

Recently, Vulcan Industries had the opportunity to collaborate with Office Depot to develop a unique solution for the ink and toner cartridge area in their new “Store of the Future” format. Replacement ink and toner cartridges became a critical item to the office products business once computers became a workplace and home office essential. With hundreds of choices, it is a high volume business with a need for constant replenishment of product.  Getting additional inventory out of the back room is an issue Office Depot needed to resolve to keep associates on the floor and customers satisfied.

“With the customer, we brainstormed several concepts,” explains Chuck Lee, Director of Creative Strategies for Vulcan Industries, explains. “We looked for ways to ‘hide’ storage areas behind shelves, at the back of the shelves – somewhere that it would be accessible to the retail employee without overstocking the primary product area.  We tried to identify any space that was under-utilized or wasn’t being used at all.” 

The Gondola Drawer

Office Depot, like almost every retailer, uses gondola shelving to display their products. This particular style of retail shelving gives stores a great amount of flexibility, as shelves are easily adjusted. Typically, the bottom shelf, or “base deck,” sits six or seven inches off the floor, and below that is empty space, said Lee. Seeing that space, a light bulb went on.

“It was just wasted space. So we asked ourselves, ‘how can we take advantage of this?’” he said. “And we created a drawer that sits in that space and can be pulled open. Product can be taken directly from the drawer and put right on the shelf.”

However, for that solution to work for Office Depot, some things had to be addressed from a functional and safety standpoint. They couldn’t run the risk that a drawer would be left standing open if an associate were interrupted or distracted, creating a trip hazard for store patrons and employees.  “We had to come up with a way to make the drawer close by itself with approximately 25 lbs. of product, plus the weight of the drawer,” explained Jim Bell, Vulcan Industries’ New Product Development Manager.  “It took quite a bit of creative engineering, but we developed a system using retractor cables and self-closing slides to make a drawer that would close on its own.”

Five Benefits

There are five big benefits to the drawer, and they could add up to some big advantages for Office Depot.

1 – Fewer trips to the stockroom

Sometimes, employees spend a lot of time going back and forth to the stock room and the store shelving to see if an item is in stock. Each trip adds to labor costs. By reducing or eliminating these trips, workers can spend time on other tasks.

2 – Less back room, more showroom

Customers assume that retailers have a big storage room with a lot of merchandise. In fact, many have a small back room, or even no back room at all. Why? Because the more product there is in the showroom, the more product there is for customers to purchase.

3 – Easier to replenish shelves

Eventually, the store shelf will need to be restocked. And when they do, it’s much easier and quicker when the merchandise is right there, sitting under the shelf.

4 – Better customer service

When employees are in the stock room, they’re not on the floor. And the fewer employees a retailer has on the floor, the harder it is for customers to find help when they need it. Customer service can make all the difference, and the more associates there are available, the better.

5 – Quicker for customer to purchase

It’s much easier and quicker to check on an item, so customers do not have to wait around. They can purchase their item quickly.

Custom Solutions

“While the gondola drawers are an excellent solution for Office Depot, we may have a different store display solution that better fits the needs of another customer,” Lee emphasized. “We don’t have off-the-shelf solutions here at Vulcan Industries,” said Lee. “Businesses are different, and we create solutions that are tailor made for each individual client. We help them sell more product and run their business as efficiently as possible by offering a solution that fits their budget and shows a return on investment.”

Simplifying inventory control can help you operate your business in a more efficient way. Visit our web site to see examples of our many solutions or to schedule a meeting to see how we can serve you.

How Vulcan Engineers State-of-the-Art Retail Display Solutions

In a previous post, we looked at Vulcan Industries’ creative design process, which begins with asking clients the right questions and listening to their feedback. The next step involves collaborating with the client to come up with and refine a concept that addresses their needs. But the phase following that is where the magic actually happens, where the product is brought to life and goes from being an idea to a tangible solution. This month, we talk to Vice President and General Manager William Hudson and New Product Development Manager Jim Bell, about the nuts and bolts of arguably the most important part of what we do at Vulcan.

Q: So exactly how does Vulcan go about engineering custom retail display solutions?

Jim Bell: Our Product Development Team gets a project request from the sales team which includes the initial displays designs, a detailed explanation of the display requirements, product to be displayed, and customer expectations. From this information, we develop a display solution that will fulfill the design expectations as well as the structural features needed to support the product. Using Pro Engineer design software, we develop CAD models of the display and engineering drawings for estimating and manufacturing.

Q: What sets Vulcan’s engineering apart from that of its competitors?

Jim Bell: We have a team with over 90 years of display experience. Many of those years of experience are at VI. We are a mix of mechanical engineers and industrial designers, so we bring knowledgeable engineering practices as well as human factors and aesthetics to the design table. We also employ a mechanical engineer in China to develop designs for China production and assist with our quality control process for our Chinese vendors. And within our facility, our engineering team manages a shop that builds short-lead-time samples for the sales team to present to customers.

 Q: How can partnering with the engineering team benefit the client to produce a superior end product?

Jim Bell: Each project engineer works directly with our sales team on each project, which often leads to working directly with the customer. Initial CAD models are developed, reviewed internally and with the customer, feedback is received, and changes are made before drawings are prepared and samples built. This process is repeated as needed until the customer approves our design solution.

Q: What makes Vulcan so good at doing what it does?

William Hutson: At Vulcan Industries, we go to work every day with a desire for continuous improvement through the implementation of our Lean Business System. We begin by obviously trying to hire the best people, and then we make sure they’re trained. Not only trained initially but as updates come and things like engineering software are revised, they’re given training on all those updates. We have our basic goals and also some stretch goals. Everyone is working on those goals as a department and as individuals to continue to improve and stay on top of what’s going on in the marketplace so that we’re as prepared as we can be.

We add to our investment in process and people with investments in state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment. We invest significant money into making sure we have the latest in whatever it needs to be … welders, laser cutters. We’re updating our paint line with the latest and greatest equipment. We’ve got really good manufacturing personnel and good engineering. We’re up on the latest techniques for manufacturing parts so that they’re stronger, less waste, and hold up better.

Q: What kind of sustainable practices does Vulcan employ in its engineering and manufacturing processes?

William Hutson: Number one, we recycle all of our waste metal. We’re cutting parts out of big sheets of steel. We do our best to optimize it, but there’s always some scrap, and we recycle that scrap so it doesn’t just go into a landfill. For our steel, we go through a recycler, and they turn around and sell it back to refineries to re-smelt it and create more steel.

We take steps to reduce our electricity usage at the plant with specific equipment to allow overall Lean energy. We paint our own parts in-house, but it does use some water, and the water that comes out when the process is finished can be dumped right into the city’s storm system. It doesn’t have to be specially treated or anything like that. We have EPA and OSHA approvals to do that because we use a low-phosphate paint system. Vulcan does try to be as green as possible and protect the environment when we can.

Q: Can you tell us a bit more about the philosophy behind such practices?

William Hutson: Well, there are three big reasons why we do what we do. Some of our customers demand it. For instance, Coca-Cola is one of our clients, and they’re very interested in sustainability and protecting the environment, not only for themselves but also for their partners who are providing displays and other materials. Two, it saves us money. There’s an investment up front, but in the long run [Lean manufacturing] helps us be a more efficient company, and a by-product of Lean is saving money. At the end of the day, the parts we produce are less expensive, so we’re able to pass on the savings to our customer and it’s a lower overhead for us. It’s a win for everybody. And the third is it’s a good marketing tool. Being able to talk about those things we do sometimes give us a competitive edge.

Q: I figure Vulcan’s reputation helps attract top engineers?

 Jim Bell: Being well-known in the industry has helped bring top-quality engineers to VI. For a project engineer to be able to design a product, develop a sample, and be involved in the manufacturing of that product provides a positive learning and developmental experience for that individual.

 We Can Build Exactly What You Need

An expert in the field of creative retail-display solutions since 1948, Vulcan Industries engineers and manufactures custom fixtures for retailers and suppliers of consumer products. With our decades-long history of designing and building quality displays and our commitment to staying at the forefront of technology, you can be assured of seamless project execution from start to finish.

3 Major Merchandising Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

While there are countless ways a retailer can go wrong in trying to reach its customers, attempting to consider and remedy each and every one can be truly overwhelming. Fortunately, most of the mistakes typically made fall under three broad categories: store environment, product assortment, and merchandising strategy. By thinking of potential pitfalls in this simplified way, you can better address them and turn missed sales opportunities into repeat business.

  1. Store environment, aka housekeeping. This one we can all relate to. We’ve all been to stores that left us feeling vaguely put off and uninspired to shop. But what are some of the factors that create this overall impression? It goes without saying that every store should be kept clean, well-lit, and properly appointed in terms of its aesthetic appearance. Old fixtures and burnt-out lights should be replaced as often as needed. Being pennywise in this area is plain pound foolish. Some specific areas to zero in on:
  • An unappealing exterior. This could encompass anything from peeling paint to signage that’s too small or otherwise illegible. Remember, the outside of your store is the face you’re presenting to the public. If your store is shabby-looking or people can’t even find it, they’re less likely to go in in the first place. Best Buy’s philosophy regarding this particular aspect of merchandising is “from highway to endcap,” meaning that the sales process begins not when the customer enters store but at the point they pass by on the highway. Seeing the store from afar, pulling in, parking, entering the doors, navigating the layout of the store then ultimately finding the product they’re looking for—it’s all a journey, and every step should guide the shopper toward making a purchase. Proper signage is essential to moving the shopper along that journey. Kmart in particular increased the size of its signage at underperforming stores and saw an instant increase in sales—testament to just how important signage is.
  • Stale store displays. It’s important that these change often enough. How often is often enough will depend on how often the average customer engages with your brand. If you have a POS system that tracks sales by customer, you’ll be able to determine this with ease, but even smaller retailers can use a simple database or spreadsheet to track individual customer purchases. Make sure that your displays reflect seasonality while showcasing new product offerings­—strive for the optimal blend of what the customer is looking for and what you want to show them. More on that later. Vulcan Industries can help retailers effectively and affordably refresh lackluster displays. We can design new displays that better communicate changing product features to consumers or simply give your store a facelift.
  • Changing displays during store hours. This one is self-explanatory. No one likes feeling like they’re getting in the way or that the store is in a state of disarray. “In progress” displays telegraph a lack of professionalism that can translate into a decline in sales. Ensure that your labor budget allows adequate time for displays to be changed during off hours or, failing that, during exceptionally slow periods. Because the time to perform updating and restocking duties is extremely limited, anything you can do to streamline the process is to your benefit. Vulcan offers shelving solutions that can store back stock on the sales floor, saving sales associates the time of having to retrieve more from the back room. For merchandise that requires added security measures, Vulcan designs locking cabinets with wire grids or clear panels that allow the customer to clearly see the product inside and associates to take inventory. Some displays incorporate wheels or casters, making it easy to pre-stage product in the back room and roll it out to the sales floor when it’s ready to go.
  • Unusual colors over large areas. While all beige is certainly boring, too-trendy colors don’t have a long shelf life, and super-bright colors can skew the senses. Brand-identifying colors and/or pops of color are just fine and even very effective in stimulating shoppers’ senses. What you want to avoid is huge, uninterrupted expanses of color, such as on entire walls. Colored lighting is also inadvisable. This isn’t a nightclub—electric colors can make merchandise appear a different color than it actually is, resulting in disappointment once the item is seen in natural light. It really is a fine line, so factor in the nature of the display and its expected shelf life when deciding on colors. Neutral colors are well-suited to displays for perennial everyday items whereas seasonal, limited-time merchandise allows greater flexibility in use of more dynamic color schemes. Help keep your store looking current and color-appropriate with temporary popup displays as well as permanent displays that accommodate easily changeable graphic elements.
  1. Non-optimal product assortment and/or inventory. Another oft-used retail phrase is “clean, bright, and tight.” Tight here refers to having shelves that always look fully stocked. Solutions to this problem include incorporating spring-loaded pushers, which keep products positioned at the front of the shelf each time one is removed. Gravity-feed designs use angles and slopes to achieve the same effect without as many moving parts. Big-picture things to consider in this category:
  • Too little product. Whether people come into your store looking for something specific or simply to see if anything sparks their interest, not having enough merchandise to make the right impression is one of the worst mistakes you can make. If you don’t have enough room to put all your offerings on the showroom floor, consider an electronic kiosk, which Vulcan can help you design, to help bridge the gap between your entire catalog and what’s available at your store. If too little product means not enough inventory rather than product breadth, once again, Vulcan’s custom shelving solutions can save stores time and labor by keeping merchandise on the sales floor for replenishment as needed.
  • Too much product. Though lots of choices are good, seeing them all at once creates visual clutter and a feeling of being overwhelmed—which isn’t conducive to shopping. Sometimes this happens because a retailer gets a good deal on a particular product and is overstocked. To avoid product glut, retailers should establish and adhere to a planogram—which determines what goes where, in what quantity, and when—as much as possible. However, if you have to choose, having too much product rather than too little is always preferred. Retailers like Best Buy, Office Depot, and DIY stores address the problem by placing excess inventory around the store perimeter, above the shopper’s line of sight, which generally ranges from floor level to 8 feet high. Shoppers are more accustomed to filtering out what’s above them than they are to seeing empty store shelves.
  • Choosing products you like instead of what your customers need. Often, this results from retailers selecting products based on price/profit margin, supplier relationships, or logistics efficiencies as opposed to anticipating customer needs. Putting the cart before the horse this way could and often does drive customers to other stores where they can actually find what they want. And should they find their experience at that other store more satisfying than yours, they may never come back. While it’s fine to designate a limited area of the store to try new merchandise out at your discretion, you must make the items most wanted and needed by your particular customer base easily accessible. If it’s a matter of space constraints, the aforementioned electronic kiosks can offer customers access to your full catalog of available products.
  1. Ineffective merchandising. Effective merchandising requires you to know who your target customer is—not just for your store as a whole but at the product level as well. For example, ADA compliance should be factored in when placing products so that disabled shoppers can access them in some way, even if an associate’s help is required. Similarly, children’s toys need to be placed where they can be seen and played with by kids, since they’re typically the ones driving the purchase decision. What are some of the specific no-nos in this category?
  • Selling to everyone instead of someone.How you sell will depend on what the product is and who your main customer is, though you should also consider your secondary and tertiary buyers. If you can tailor your display to appeal to all three groups, you can capture more sales. The key is to avoid trying to appeal to every single person, which is almost never possible. Even would-be buyers of, say, a particular cell phone can be interested in it for entirely different reasons, be it looks or functionality. Upselling by placing like products side by side is one way you can market to similar but different customers. This could be done using graphics and messaging, a separate display that looks nicer than the generic, or by placing premium items alongside relevant accessories.
  • A marketing strategy that’s out of sync with displays. It should be obvious that the more touch points you have with your customer, the more likely you are to make a sale. Yet many retailers fail to put this multichannel marketing knowledge into practice. Case in point, Swiffer recently executed a very effective series of “mystery box” television commercials in which a variety of consumers were sent Swiffer products and asked to use them and share their opinions. Swiffer also created in-store product displays echoing the message and theming of the commercial spots for retailers to use. However, not all retailers opted to implement these displays, including several grocery stores. Without displays like these in place, consumers may not make the connection between that very intensive advertising campaign and the product they’re seeing in front of them—a missed opportunity. So make your messaging consistent across all channels as much as you’re able to.
  • Failure to create a journey through the retail environment. Whatever your size, you should be doing everything you can to draw your customers in and keep them moving toward making purchases. Find ways to encourage your customers to explore all that you have to offer, whether it’s with interactive displays, engaging sales staff, product demonstrations, in-store promotions, or a fun sensory environment. Bass Pro Shops is a great example of a retailer who goes the extra mile to create an ambience that really speaks to its niche customers. Mounted stuffed animal heads, a shooting range, aquariums, and salespeople who hunt and fish themselves make shoppers feel invested in, and emotionally connected to, their brand. By contrast, Walmart’s story, appealing to pretty much anyone who wants to save money, is “Live more, spend less.” All retailers should be having an implicit conversation with their customers; how elaborately you tell your story will depend on who your customer is and what your story is.
  • Failure to gauge metrics (ROI) and merchandise accordingly. This is another thing that every retailer should be doing. Most information can be obtained directly from the register: what products are selling, in what volume, at what price, and when. This will determine your product assortment and future marketing strategies. Even big chain stores carry regional merchandise, such as snow blowers or winter coats in the northern states going into fall, or college football-related merchandise going into football season. Extremely effective in driving sales, this approach also helps bigger brands feel friendlier to local markets. While merchandising tends to be cyclical—think back to school, Halloween, and summer vacation—it’s important not to fall into the trap of doing the same thing over and over regardless of how well it’s performing. Always track metrics and adjust buying and inventory accordingly.

Let Us Help You Tell Your Retail Story

An expert in the field of creative retail-display solutions since 1948, Vulcan Industries designs and manufactures custom fixtures for retailers and suppliers of consumer products. Whether you’re refreshing old retail displays or looking for a complete store makeover, we’re a full-service provider that does it all, from concept development to execution. We can build and implement digital kiosks and supply you with everything you need. We specialize in providing solutions—including shelving units, freestanding and wall-mounted merchandising displays, POP displays, and specialty fixtures—for a wide range of markets. To benefit from our decades of expertise, save time and labor, and grow your bottom line, contact Vulcan Industries today.

Bridging the Gap between Online and In-Store Shopping

While online shopping offers unmatched convenience, an astounding breadth of products, and an almost limitless potential for impulse purchases, the tactile experience of actually seeing, touching, and interacting with a product in store will never be replaced. And for many, nothing beats the instant gratification of being able to purchase and use a product right away. But because of its many advantages and our increasingly online way of life, e-commerce is firmly entrenched and will only continue to grow. The most successful retailers are able to capitalize on both experiences and meld them seamlessly to provide a more satisfying customer experience while complementing rather than cannibalizing their sales. You, too, can do online and offline business better—and do them together—by asking yourself 5 important questions.

  1. Do your online and physical stores match? It may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many don’t. Ensure branding, messaging, product offerings, prices, and promotions are consistent across both channels for a more cohesive customer experience that encourages spending. Collaborate and coordinate with your e-commerce team to deliver a consistent look, feel, and overall shopping experience. The same logos, colors, themes, featured products, and branding language should be found in both places to emphasize your position as a legitimate and respected product source in your particular market.
  1. Are you providing an agreeable—and similar—shopping experience in both places? It’s a no-brainer that the longer people stay in your store or on your site, the more money they’re likely to spend. That means your store, whether online or off, must be easy to navigate while catering to customer needs and wants. Online, that means an attractive yet user-friendly layout; intuitive navigation menus; easy-to-read type in terms of font, color, and size; and enough product promotion but not too much. No one enjoys being bombarded with ads, and having to wade through them can make it difficult for consumers to find what they’re looking for. Memory-intensive sites that take too long to load can frustrate those with limited patience, especially if they’re jumping between multiple product pages while comparison shopping.

Likewise, an aesthetically appealing store environment that’s relaxing and inviting encourages customers to linger and make impulse purchases instead of buying just the essentials. Roomy aisles, easily accessible products, suitable music, comfortable seating, appropriate lighting levels in each merchandising area, and relevant product demonstrations can go a long way toward making shopping baskets bigger.

  1. Are you adequately integrating technology in your stores? While budgetary constraints may determine how high-tech you can get, every effort should be made to bring e-commerce elements into your brick-and-mortar stores. Hybrid shoppers—those who research online before coming into the store or even while at the store—increasingly demand that information be at their fingertips, whether it’s via mobile apps, mobile-compatible websites, in-store digital kiosks, or social media. Resist the wave of the future and you could be left behind. If your demographic skews younger and/or female, this is especially crucial; research shows both groups to be early tech adopters when it comes to retail. By catering to their interests, you can boost your bottom line. An example of something low-cost you can do is feature signage that encourages shoppers to take pictures and post them to social media. The benefits are twofold: By letting “influencer” customers be your brand ambassadors, you’ll leverage their social profiles and networks while potentially drawing in waves of new customers without dropping a ton of cash.
  1. Are the benefits of each channel available in both places? While each channel has its pros and cons, the more you can do to offer customers the best of both worlds, the more you can drive sales. In-store digital kiosks are an effective way to blend the two, allowing shoppers to browse the full catalog of available products; compare features, benefits, prices, and product reviews; access promotions, including coupons and personalized offers; locate inventory at other stores; place and track orders; and arrange for delivery to their store of choice—all while still enjoying the physical experience of in-store shopping. This online-style functionality benefits not only the customer but the salesperson as well; information available via kiosks can serve as a kind of “cheat sheet” for sales staff to reference for talking points. That way, they don’t have to know every detail about the full range of products your store offers. Many also capture information about customers that can be used to tailor offers and drive future campaigns. Vulcan Industries can help design and build custom in-store kiosks like these, according to your specific criteria.
  1. Are you doing enough to build brand loyalty? Ultimately, brand loyalty is what keeps customers coming back, time and time again, to your brick-and-mortar stores in particular. Focusing too heavily on e-commerce and neglecting your physical stores could be your undoing. Brand loyalists are likely to visit stores on a regular basis. These customers are interested in keeping up with your brand and seeing what’s new, and many are willing to pay full retail price to have what they want right now. With that in mind, you can’t afford to not look fresh, both in terms of your marketing campaigns and your store’s physical appearance. Stores that look run-down, where metal fixtures, wood cabinets, and point-of-purchase (POP) displays look dented, chipped, or otherwise dirty, detract from the overall shopping experience. Vulcan can help reinforce your brand by building custom retail display fixtures that hold up and hold up well, whether you wish to replace existing fixtures or do a complete reset with all-new fixtures in support of new product lines and/or programs.

What Vulcan Industries Can Do For You

An expert in the field of creative retail display solutions since 1948, Vulcan Industries designs and manufactures custom fixtures for retailers and suppliers of consumer products. Whether you’re building new stores that need retail displays or you’re looking to integrate your online presence into your store’s environment, we’re a full-service provider that does it all, from concept development to execution. We can build and implement digital kiosks and supply you with everything you need, including LCD displays and housing. We also specialize in shelving units, freestanding and wall-mounted merchandising displays, POP displays, and specialty fixtures for a wide range of markets. To benefit from our decades of expertise and globally enhance your brand, contact Vulcan Industries today.

Redesigning Retail Floors for Stronger Sales

The business of retail depends heavily on continually refreshing the shopping experience as well as providing a visually pleasing setting where customers feel inspired to shop. Even the most loyal customer can get tired of the “same old, same old” and be wooed away by the new kid on the block. While the post-holiday lull can be tough for retailers, it also presents the perfect opportunity to take a critical look at retail spaces and see what can be done to improve traffic flows and merchandising of key products. Chuck Lee, Vulcan Industries’ Director of Creative Strategies, discusses five fundamental merchandising strategies you may have never considered before.

  1. Take it from the top. Think about your retail space from the top down. High, white ceilings with bright lighting create an open, inviting floor space while allowing customers to read merchandise tags and product boxes with ease. Consider the type of lighting you should use. Is it appropriate for the type of merchandise you have on display? For example, in a jewelry store, LED lights on display cases let diamonds shine their brightest. Is it right for your store and customers? Does it mesh with your brand? What kind of mood or experience are you trying to impart? As you’re surveying your space, also consider lines of sight. How far back do you want customers to see? If it’s all the way to the back of the store, make sure that way-finding signs are still clearly visible and unobstructed by modular displays.

 

  1. Give people room to move. Sufficient space is paramount to the shopping experience. Too much is obviously costly for the retailer, but too little will make customers uncomfortable, creating a claustrophobic atmosphere that’s not conducive to extended shopping. When optimizing your retail space, take into account not just the square footage available but also how it will be used on a day-to-day basis. Think about all store traffic—customers with shopping carts, associates with pallet jacks, and so on—and how wide aisles should be to accommodate this. And don’t skimp; too-tight aisles can create bottlenecks and traffic jams, deterring customers and defeating the whole purpose of being open for business in the first place.

 

How much space is enough? Some space needs are universal, such as the ADA requirement that aisles be at least 42 inches wide so that a wheelchair can maneuver comfortably, but others will depend on what type of business you’re running. If you’re a big-box store using forklifts, aisles will need to be 12 feet wide, whereas if you’re a grocery store, two shopping carts wide is the rule of thumb. Aisle length is also important. Extremely long aisles can make customers feel trapped and reluctant to enter. Mid-aisle cut-throughs are an excellent solution, particularly where space is limited or support structures dictate their presence anyway. Anything you can do to create more space, or the illusion of it, will encourage shoppers to stay longer—and buy more.

 

  1. Make sure shoppers are doing more than “just looking.” Well-designed, effectively placed retail displays should encourage customers to interact with the merchandise. The more they pick it up, look at it, and study its features, the more likely they are to buy. Choose store fixtures that let shoppers experience the product as much as possible. In some cases, product displays may include messaging, to both educate the consumer and build brand loyalty. The more complex or expensive the product, the more interaction and/or messaging is needed for customers to feel confident in their purchase. Being able to play video games, test stereo equipment, or see how many HDMI ports a TV has before buying will greatly enhance sales. Cross-merchandising, or placing related items nearby, such as mice for computers, can help you upsell and significantly boost average order value. Checkout space, the final frontier, offers yet another upselling opportunity. Whether you have individual lanes, a bank configuration, or separate checkouts in each department, be sure to present companion products, accessories, warranties, and impulse items to customers on their approach to the register.

 

  1. Remember that looks matter. Store display fixtures that are broken or incorrectly installed make for a lackluster and sometimes awkward shopping experience. If they’re old-looking, dinted, or scratched, replace them. Think you can’t afford to? Gondola shelving offers a cost-effective solution, with base decks designed for replacement. Pegboards start looking ratty after a few years as the holes get worn, so don’t keep them beyond their aesthetic lifespan. Being penny wise here is pound foolish. Likewise, anything from old, faded store signage to self-adhesive price tags that haven’t been properly scraped off can detract from the overall experience. Yet another thing to keep in mind is that lighting brightness declines over time, making the sales floor look dingy and dirty, so budget for lighting upgrades accordingly.

 

For nearly 70 years, Vulcan Industries has provided turnkey merchandising display solutions to diverse retailers and brand marketers, from design to delivery. They can even help you pinpoint ways to minimize wear and tear, repair, and maintenance requirements from the outset, thereby reducing cost. Taking into account store reconfiguration history, sales goals, seasonal merchandise, and even physical factors such as height, they can suggest stock point-of-purchase displays or custom-design a solution that best suits your retail scenario. For example, areas with oft-changing merchandise offerings may benefit from store fixtures with wheels, which allow you to relocate and update with ease. Similarly, modular fixtures offer the flexibility to add or subtract height from vertical retail displays, saving you from buying additional displays.

 

  1. Use POP displays that really pop. Creating the right POS displays for your company’s retail environment starts with asking the right questions. What are your specific marketing objectives? Who is your target customer? Who are you competing against? What retail context will it appear in? And, of course, how much can you spend? Vulcan Industries offers complete customizability and built-in flexibility, with merchandising displays designed with your current and future retail needs in mind. Thanks to years of manufacturing expertise and state-of-the-art machinery that can weld and laser-cut components quickly, Vulcan is able to save its clients time and money without compromising quality or durability. Value-engineered product redesigns and the option to manufacture overseas if lead time is sufficient are further ways that Vulcan can reduce the cost of custom store fixturing. Eco-friendly, intuitive, and easy to set up, Vulcan products will last for years, helping your business thrive in the long run.

To begin creatively conceptualizing your retail display makeover, contact Vulcan Industries today.

The Ultimate Grand Opening Checklist for Retail Fixtures

Preparing for a store grand opening is a hectic time. With hiring and training staff, stocking shelves, installing registers, and developing marketing collateral among your many responsibilities, it’s important to have a plan in place. A vital component of your store’s success, point-of-purchase displays should factor into many of the initial decisions made about your store. Luckily, Vulcan Industries’ Director of Creative Strategies, Chuck Lee, is here to help with the ultimate grand opening checklist for retail fixtures.

  • Find a store that meets your dimension guidelines. Typically, large retailers will develop store layout plans that fit spaces of certain dimensions. Once you’ve selected your location, spend the time to draft a design for that specific space to optimize merchandise placement and your customers’ experience.
  • Begin planning for merchandising displays 9-10 months before your grand opening. Before ordering fixtures, consider where support columns are in your store, the optimal space between aisles, and the overall dimensions of your store. Many displays are available in various size options, and you may need to plan for a specific combination to best fit your space and needs.
  • Follow best practices for point-of-sale display placement. DO NOT place displays in the immediate entrance of your store. Customers need a few feet of open space to take off sunglasses, get acclimated to the store, and think about what they need. Distracted with these tasks, shoppers will overlook merchandise in this space. Also avoid the back of store and the entrances to storage rooms and restrooms; customers instinctively dodge these spots for good reason. DO place displays on the endcaps of aisles, facing the front door. This is the most noticed, most walked past area in your store. Endcaps on the back sides of aisles and in-aisle placement rank second in effectiveness. To draw attention to popular merchandise, the center of the store if prime real estate.
  • Train employees on assembling POS displays. Vulcan Industries’ in-stock store fixtures are easy to assemble and can be configured to suit any merchandising need with peghooks, shelves, and wire baskets. Simply insert hooks, shelves, and baskets into the pegboard backing of your gondola display to change the product presentation within minutes.
  • Place marketing signage on displays. Stores typically go above and beyond with marketing for grand openings, offering attractive deals that get shoppers in their doors. Before opening, make sure you have signage created and in place. Create a “Grand Opening Kit” for your store ahead of the big day, with messaging related to sales, financing, return policies, warranties, and more.
  • Conduct a final sweep of your store before opening. Your store should be clean, bright, and tight in time for the doors to open. Check that everything’s priced, signage is in the correct place, and that shelves look full with no empty spaces. Inspect displays for any loose shelves or hooks, and make any necessary adjustments for the safety of customers. You only have one chance to make a first impression, and jow shoppers perceive your store upon first opening determines its success. It’s well worth putting extra effort into its appearance before you cut the red ribbon.

Get ready for your grand opening with in-stock store fixtures from Vulcan Industries. Contact us or request information today!

How Vulcan Industries Helps Brands Be More Creative

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Need a point-of-purchase display for a new product, but aren’t sure where to start? Have a unique set of requirements for your merchandising display that can’t be fulfilled by in-stock display options? At Vulcan Industries, our creative team works with you to design custom store fixtures that meet your business’ needs. And with more than 70 years of experience as a display manufacturer, we have the knowledge set and tools to make your ideas come to life. Discover all our capabilities, and learn what Vulcan Industries can do for you in a recent interview with Director of Creative Strategies, Chuck Lee.

Q: Creatively, what can Vulcan Industries do for its clients?

A: “One thing we can do in design is solve problems. Whether you need a display that holds more products, want an easier setup or takedown, desire a mobile fixture, or one that incorporates electricity, Vulcan Industries can solve that problem for you.

One of the benefits of working with Vulcan is that if you’re facing a unique challenge, we can pull inspiration from prior solutions we created for other clients. Our creative, sales, and engineering teams work closely together, and boast years of experience in the merchandising display industry. We can take seemingly disparate ideas, and develop remarkably creative solutions.”

Q: How does the creative process work at Vulcan Industries?         

A: “We begin by listening to your issues and the challenges you’re trying to overcome. We seek to fully understand your needs. Based on this conversation, our creative team begins brainstorming ideas with you. And with your input, we develop multiple concepts that start as sketches and develop into CAD renderings. If our creative team has questions pertaining to functionality, we meet with engineering to help with conceptualization.

After presenting concepts to you, we’ll make changes based on your feedback. For instance, we may take part of Concept 1 and part of Concept 2 to develop a Concept 3 that melds the features you like best. With a final concept selected, the display goes to engineering for pricing, and a prototype is built so you can visualize and use the fixture within your store. Upon approval, the display moves into production, with our project management team working closely with you on timeline and delivery.”

Q: How are the creative solutions Vulcan Industries offers superior to competitors’? 

A: “At Vulcan Industries, we do things differently. Many display companies will try to solve your problem with their stock line of products—a solution that saves them time and money. Vulcan Industries is different because we don’t sell you on a stock line of products. We can better solve your problem because unlike other companies, we aren’t married to solving your problem with in-stock options.

Secondly, we engineer your display before we price, which is much different than what other display manufacturers do. Many companies will estimate cost based on design, and as a result, due to changes made in engineering, your final cost may be dramatically different from the estimate. Vulcan Industries delivers a price we can stand behind—guessing on price isn’t something we do. With us, you won’t need to return to your boss for multiple budget approvals.”

Want to get started on your new point-of-purchase display? Contact us or request more information today!

The Benefits of Modular Retail Displays

Optimizing retail space doesn’t have to be difficult. Thanks to modular displays, there are numerous ways to update the retail environment  without days of construction and exorbitant costs. At Vulcan Industries, we work with retailers to design point-of-purchase displays that adapt to particular needs, whether that be space utilization, functionality, ease-of-use, or any other unique obstacle they may face. Learn more about the benefits of modular retail displays, and discover the infinite design possibilities available with Vulcan Industries’ Director of Creative Strategies, Chuck Lee.

Adaptability

With modular retail displays, revitalizing and maximizing a retail space doesn’t require changing the size or footprint. Basic pegboard gondolas can be reconfigured with peghooks, shelving, baskets, and other accessories to accommodate changes in merchandising. These types of displays are the foundation for grocery stores and big box retailers. But modularity doesn’t just apply to stock gondola shelving. Vulcan Industries can design custom store fixtures that fit into existing displays to create a cohesive unit. If an existing display system was originally sourced from another manufacturer, we can retrofit a custom solution that can be seamlessly integrated into your current fixturing.

Reusable Parts

Because modular fixtures can be designed for maximum adaptability, retailers can give themselves the ability to redeploy shelving, baskets, pegboard hooks, and other accessories in response to changes in merchandising strategy. If a store purchases multiples of the same display, individual components can often be used interchangeably. Have an abundance of hooks or shelves at one store location? Ship parts to a store that needs them. By limiting “throwaways” and the leveraging the ability to reuse components again and again, modular retail displays are your cost-efficient solution.

Time-Efficient Assembly

Utilizing modular retail displays throughout a store impacts productivity as well. As associates become familiar with how various display structures and components fit together, the process of setting up, breaking down, or reconfiguring fixtures eventually requires less time. As a result, more time is available to help customers, replenish inventory, and keep store operations running smoothly—activities that cultivate excellent customer service and increase profitability for retailers.

Easy to Shop

Today’s customers have high expectations and want a consistent, comfortable shopping experience. With modular store fixtures, it’s easy to create a similar look and feel across several locations. Acquaint shoppers with window, door, or cabinet displays at one home improvement store location, and they will understand how to shop the display elsewhere. Consistency matters in creating an in-store experience customers love, and with modular displays that reliability is possible.

Benefit from the adaptability of modular retail displays with customized solutions from Vulcan Industries. Contact us or request information today!

Preparing Your Store for Seasonal Merchandising

The holiday season is a magical time—not just for children, but for retailers as well. End of year sales offer the biggest opportunity for businesses to meet annual revenue goals as shoppers scramble to find Black Friday deals and holiday gifts. According to the National Retail Federation, “20-40 percent of yearly sales for small and mid-sized retailers take place within the last two months of the year”—making now the opportune time to begin preparing your store for the seasonal push. To help you get started, Vulcan Industries’ Director of Creative Strategies Chuck Lee offers inspired ideas for priming your merchandising displays for the holidays.

Designate Space for Seasonal Displays

Most big-box retailers design store layouts to include a designated space for seasonal merchandise. During the year, this area might be used for back-to-school, Halloween, Fourth of July, or other timely promotions. To inspire shoppers to load up on supplies for Thanksgiving and end-of-year holidays, front-of-store grocery display fixtures may feature ingredients for cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, stuffing, and other traditional favorites. Organize your store with seasonal merchandising in mind, and you’ll keep aisles easy to shop when the holidays roll around.

Keep Stores Clean, Bright, and Tight

During the holidays, the number of shoppers entering retailers’ doors dramatically increases, and with it comes more dirt and clutter. In a rush to grab deals, customers leave shelves in disarray—a condition that creates stress and frustration for subsequent shoppers who are unable to find sought-after items. To keep consumers happy and apt to re-enter your store, instruct sales attendants to regularly clean and replenish shelves. Leave no blank spaces between items, creating a “tight” sales floor that’s only restocked periodically. Remember to leave aisles open and easy to navigate; with the increase in store visitors, cardboard sales bins and other in-aisle “interrupters” may hinder flow and create bottlenecks in store traffic. To further aid visibility, clean skylights and keep fluorescents on during the day for a brighter, more cheerful atmosphere.

De-stress the Shopping Experience

How many times have you left a store only to realize there was an item you forget? Busy stores filled with stressed-out shoppers often affect our ability to remember small-ticket items, such as gift bags and wrapping paper, that are just as fundamental to gifting as the presents themselves. Near checkout, place point of purchase displays stocked with batteries, tissue paper, bows, and stocking stuffers. Consider offering free gift wrapping as a special service to customers who purchase items from your store. The word-of-mouth advertising that results from this simple gesture will likely garner more sales than you ever imagined.

Prepare your store for seasonal merchandising with in-stock and custom store fixtures from Vulcan Industries. Contact us or request information today!