Limestone Monoliths,Leather and Bronze..but will it sell?

22 Sep

Retail shop as Stonehenge…I am always entertained by retailers who commit to fixtures with no functionality aside from a “look” Don’t get me wrong, this is a beautiful presentation. Limestone and bronze? but correct me if I’m wrong, is not the nature of retail, mobility and change? The one thing that my years in merchandising has taught me, even the most inspired design will eventually (or immediately) need to conform to the constantly changing array products displayed. Inevitably owner operated retail must conform to profitability, at least here in the U.S. Perhaps in Milan or New York the sale of one garment can cover the months operating expenses, but seriously, that is has not been my experience in the hinter lands, like Philadelphia.

I envy those who can get away with sparse merchandising practices, when I spend my days making room for for still another group of 20 dollar impulse items. One can only fit so much on the check out counter. Such is retail, the constant stream of divergent objects, some are pegged, some are boxed, some are packed in p.o.p.displays. All are intended to increase the final sale,[and assure that I get paid.] So much for the fantasy of chic open space, with limestone monoliths and bronze pedestals.

I have worked many owner operated shops, that were architect designed,I have often been charged with the duty of making them hold more product than was intended. Not that I am denigrating the noble profession, but architects too often forget the merchandise is the priority. One has to work behind the counter to understand how a real world shop operates. All shops look beautiful in sketch up drawings, but will they pay the rent? Rents in high traffic areas are sky-rocketing. Local retailers have no choice but to fill their shops with all prices points to assure a sale. Gone are the days of two fingers space between each garment.

Photos taken of shops before opening are always beautiful, even I strive to take chic minimal photos of my designs. I do not show photos taken a month later when all the product has arrived and merchandised by the staff. A very different view, (until I come in and straighten out the mess) I wonder what Stonehenge looks like at the present. Is it still in business? Have the monoliths been fitted with face-outs? and have the bronze pedestals been replaced with gondolas?…is there a paper sale sign taped to the window? The glory in my profession comes from my ability to fit all in and still maintain the high “perceived value” of the products. No matter how beautiful, the reality of retail profitability rears its ugly head. Those who understand will succeed and those who do not will disappear.


2 Responses to “Limestone Monoliths,Leather and Bronze..but will it sell?”

  1. Roger A. Wandersee September 23, 2013 at 4:13 pm #

    Vardis, You are absolutely right on target. Almost every customer that we deal with, wants some type of customized display that maximizes the number of products that can fit into the limited space that the retailers have allowed them. Our Designers spend a lot of time to make sure that each customers return on investment works in their favor, because if it doesn’t they likely won’t come back. We have been designing Custom made product displays for almost 40 years now, so I can tell you with some degree of authority that your observations are right on target.
    Roger Wandersee Sharn Enterprises, Inc.

    • Anonymous September 26, 2013 at 10:41 pm #

      Great article on fixture design & some good points. It sounds like more fixture designers need more real world experience with programs / products they make fixtures for. Please don’t get me wrong, fixtures can be beautifully designed for high end retailers.

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