From eye-catching displays to flexible shelving, retail fixtures are bigger, better and more versatile than ever
Get up and
take a long, hard look at your showroom. What do you see? Fading
point-of-purchase posters and worn, dinged shelves?
Maybe it’s time for an upgrade.
Fortunately, multiple styles and materials are available, thanks to
manufacturers’ improvements to quality and, in some cases,
even price reductions.
This is a good thing because fixtures need to be more than just
“Some people tell me that a local grocery store went out of
business and how they went in there and bought all of the
shelving,” says Deirdre Gallagher, assistant marketing
manager at BioLab Inc., based in Lawrence, Ga. “But then you
just look like you bought fixtures from a grocery store that went
out of business. You’re not putting a lot of value on what
For an industry that’s extremely busy on weekends and in
summertime, creative and well-designed fixtures also can
conveniently act as silent sales tools. New trends in POP displays,
modular shelving and innovative materials make it easier than
Signs that POP
Over the years, point-of-purchase displays have been getting bigger
and better as more people utilize them to save valuable floor
Many fixture companies offer shelf graphics — including
traditional window, floor clings and ceiling banners — that
can be placed overhead or next to the product.
“Anything that moves gets attention,” says Craig
Childress, COO of Envirosell, a New York consulting firm that
studies retail and human behavior.
Mosher’s line of automatic pool cleaners, he uses a POP
display from the manufacturer. It’s an aquarium with the
cleaner climbing around the interior as if it were working on the
floor of a pool. The owner of Central Iowa Pools & Spas in Des
Moines reports that the demo has helped him successfully sell more
As consumers have grown more tech-savvy, they’ve also driven
the fixture industry to go electronic. Nowadays, many spa dealers
install flat-screen or plasma TVs in their stores, or use light
boxes to mark their product category sections or aisles.
“A lot of [retailers] want something large, but still very
manageable,” says Megan O’Shaughnessy, a member of the
research and development team at Bowman Displays Digital Imaging
Inc. in Munster, Ind.
“What we did was take an interlocking system and multiple
video-playing light boxes, so you can hook [all the screens]
together, making it one huge image. And you can take it all apart
and move it to the other side of the store by yourself in one
hour,” she adds.
A retailer can change out a graphic in approximately five minutes,
a plus for those with seasonal promotions. And the Duratran film
currently used inside most high-end light boxes not only eliminates
problems of fading, but also displays colors more vividly.
Besides the tech trend, regular signage and banners have undergone
BioGuard is changing the look of some of its graphics. “In
the past few years, we’ve purposely not put people in the
pictures because we want customers to envision themselves in the
photo, not some strangers —and because we’ve heard from
consumers and dealers that they sometimes feel the pools in ads are
unattainable,” Gallagher says.
So the manufacturer has taken a more conceptual approach. Last
year, while promoting its silk products, BioGuard created an
undulating display that looked like the luxurious fabric.
“Instead of pool water, we did a lot of things to get the
concept of silk across,” Gallagher says.
This year, the company is designing displays to look like
historical signs, such as the ones seen on Route 66. But instead of
a famous landmark, say, these will evoke great memories by the
pool. For example, “It would say ‘so-and-so’s
famous cannonball dive happened here,’” she explains.
Even the window clings would depict simple, five-word statements
such as “Perfect chemistry achieved here.”
Due to the seasonality of the pool and spa business, flexibility
and customization are some of the most important benefits of new
For example, BioGuard recently released its smaller cross-selling
units. Instead of acting as full-blown fixtures, each is
5-by-4-feet and features a large graphic header and two small
bottom wire grid shelves.
“The idea is, you’re placing items from different areas
of your store, so if somebody doesn’t go into another part of
the store, you already have the item there to tease them,”
says Sandy Bradbury, co-owner of the
Waterin’ Hole Inc. in Columbus, Ohio.
The graphics can be switched out depending on the season. In
summer, consumers see a picture of a colorful beach ball. In
autumn, the display features a couple relaxing in a hot tub at
night. “Underneath the picture, you may have candles or
fragrances, aromatherapy products, whatever you’re pushing at
moment,” Bradbury notes.
Nate Brickner, who invested in wire grid gondolas for his
3,000-square-foot showroom, explains why: “We usually bring
in more hot tubs in the fall. These are easier to move [than the
Some of the shelving units come in smaller 4-foot-high sections.
This allows the retailer to connect them to form one big unit, as
well as adjust the sides to sit flush against a wall if
Brickner, who owns Superior Pools, LLC, in Westchester, Ohio, likes
to use the shelves to display spa accessories such as steps,
umbrellas or cover lifts. Or when the store brings in a new product
such as a toy for Fourth of July, he can shift the fixtures to
place the highlighted item in the most optimal part of the
“It makes it nice when you can change the look of your store
so [return customers] aren’t seeing the same old
things,” Brickner says.
But there’s only so much floor space, which is why hanging
wall units have improved. Some retailers still use traditional
pegboard units, but others have switched to slatwall.
“It’s much easier to work with because you can slide
your hooks one way or the other. More room to display,”
His store carries a line of floating baby swimwear. Rather than
laying them flat on a shelf, he improvises and hangs them on the
slatwall in the style of displays at children’s clothing
Still other retailers have opted for wire grid wall shelving. The
grids hang from hooks that can be easily removed and put up
elsewhere; plus, they’re open patterned. For Mike Lott, owner
of Dibs Chemical & Supply Co. Inc. in Gulfport, Miss., that
means the bright colors he recently had painted on his walls can
show through. “It looks so much better, and you can put more
on it,” he says.
One of the more interesting current trends in retail fixtures is
shape. Most manufacturers are bringing out shelving units with
curves. And because stores are mostly filled with right angles
— the buildings, rooms, boxes for the products — curved
shelving units command attention.
But what should they be made of? One of the most important traits
for shelving is strength and durability.
With that in mind, Brickner opted for metal units to avoid the
damage done to wooden shelves by the humidity from hot tubs.
Another concern for pool and spa dealers is the likelihood of
chemical spills, which could corrode the metal or wood. Sometimes
they have to make an aesthetic choice at the expense of
Henry Gruber selected a natural, custom wood display, but
he’ll use a special varnish to protect the surface.
“It’s going to be a little more upkeep, but we’ll
get a different, softer look,” says the owner of Hanks Hauser
in St. Cloud, Minn.
These days, most manufacturers of high-end retail fixtures are
powder-coating their shelving units. The high-cost procedure allows
the retailers myriad color options, but also ensures that the metal
will last even under the worst conditions.
Finally, when arranging fixtures, seek consistency in the
For example, Kathleen Carlson says her vendors sometimes provide
display units to her company, but she’s picky about what she
“It needs to look beautiful and functional, and it cannot be
too big a footprint because you can’t give up that much
space,” says the senior vice president of sales and marketing
at Aqua Quip, a retailer/builder in Renton, Wash.
“There are a lot of different fixtures out there,” says
Carlson, whose firm also is a Pool & Spa News Top Builder.
“You need to find one that matches the feel you want in your
store and stick with it.”