Retail Display Technology Horror Show

With a nod to Friday the 13th, let me take a moment to mention something that scares me when it comes to retail design: technology at retail, specifically video monitors.

Now before you roll your eyes and write me off as some sort of pre-historic relic, let me explain. I actually love the idea of interacting with shoppers via the latest technology. What scares me is how retailers, marketers and manufacturers arrive at, and execute, what seemingly is a simple “no-brainer”.

Here’s what happens: everyone gets together and figures out that they have to do something different for a display or their store. They see article after article that the internet is pounding the snot out of brick-and-mortar stores. They see people flocking to the latest social media site du jour. Guests are seemingly surgically attached to their smart phones.

What is a retailer, brand or marketing company to do?

At the tail end of the creative brief they throw in this line:

“include design concepts with a monitor”

Erm, okay.

That’s what scares me.

“Make the display purple like our brand, make it 72″ tall and make sure it has wheels. Oh and add a random monitor in there, ’cause that will solve a lot of problems.”

Um, nope.

This reeks of an un-thought-through (I made that up) tactical approach that is often thrown in by some random person (owner, marketing, salesman, design director, intern…).  Pro tip: throwing monitors at the problem is not part of a fundamental, comprehensive, marketing strategy.

So, before you go off the deep end, and waste a ton of money, here are my unscientific tips for putting monitors (and technology) at retail.

1) Please, Please, Please, Have A Purpose

Monitors cost a lot of money and use a lot of resources. Just because the internet uses video and bejeweled buttons, doesn’t mean you have to follow suit. Ask yourself why do you need a monitor? How does it fit into your marketing strategy and brand? Who will look at it? If it’s interactive, who will interact with it? Is it worth the cost and complexity?

Do not, do not, do not EVER just put a line item on the creative brief that says – “oh, show us some monitor concepts too” with nothing to back up the rationale.

Otherwise, use large format graphics and creative merchandising to get more bang for your buck.

2) It’s Like A Pet, Who’s Going To Take Care Of It?

We all see it. All the time. Brand XYZ comes out with an awesome new display made by world-renowned Design Firm ABC. It’s got lights, monitors, and $200K worth of lasers and holograms selling ice to Eskimos. Every trade publication and industry association fawns all over it. Salesmen crack the champagne and it’s rumored there’s even a Hollywood movie in the works…

Three months later guests are looking at a static image of the brand logo, waiving their arms fruitlessly in front of an 72″ vertical monitor, in an effort to “try on” clothes. Or the brand message changes and no one even bothers to plug-in a new USB drive to download the update. Eventually the monitor ends up in some district manager’s basement in time for the Super Bowl.

Pass the salsa.

Hey guys, what seems like a good idea during the design phase equals a lot of care and feeding down the road.

Nothing says you’re out of touch like technology that no longer works at retail.

3) Are Committed To Doing It Right?

You know, you’ve got this cool video monitor with all this technology, are you going to actually use it? Or are you just throwing it out there because the guys selling bread in the next aisle have a monitor?

Do not, I repeat, do not just put your logo on the screen, with a slide show of random products. Every time you do that, god kills a somebody with a Marketing MBA.

Understand your guests’ wants and needs. Take the time to do your research; find out what their frustrations are, how technology can help, AND attract them. Then spend the money on comprehensive graphic design, programming, and industrial design to make it look like you care about your brand, the retailer and guests.

Please, design the user experience (like real humans are going to use the technology by the way) and trouble shoot it before you go live.

4) Make Sure You’ve Got The Right Product

Some businesses need this technology at retail; video game console companies for example. What kind of monster doesn’t like stopping at Best Buy to race through the Alps on an Xbox?

If you’re selling thumbtacks in a hardware store, I’m not sure you need a monitor. But maybe… Please have a compelling reason to put wires, glass and metal on a shelf front.

Time is a consumer’s most precious commodity. Information their greatest need at retail. Help them make informed decisions, and make them fall in love with your shopping experience. They want to be entertained, but they are savvy enough to know if you’re wasting their time.

Alright, I think you get the idea. Below are some random images I pulled from my personal archive with my thoughts.

Just to be safe though, I think I’ll avoid going to retail this Friday the 13th, if it’s all the same to you.

Do you agree? Disagree? Who does tech at retail right? What are the worst examples you’ve seen? How can we improve the retail experience with technology?

Continue the discussion in the comments below.


Chris Weigand Design, LLC is a full service retail design consultancy who is more than happy to design your next display or store, with or without monitors, lasers and holograms. We want to help make the emotional connection between your brand and guests in the physical retail space. And have fun doing it.

Contact us today at (330) 858-8926 or visit for more information.



One Of A Kind Frame Display

(This is the second of two reviews of cool projects we just completed for independent retailers. Visit us at or contact us at to find out how we can help your business with retail design services. I will update the photos once we get some good ones.

-Chris Weigand)

A 4x4 island display for showcasing fine art.

A 4×4 island display for showcasing fine art.

Hudson Fine Art & Framing

When Hudson Fine Art & Framing moved from a century old Georgian mansion across the street to an equally old former drug store it was an exciting new opportunity to strum up more foot traffic. We were fortunate to be tasked with helping organize their interior space with a couple of new displays.

First off we designed and made two moveable island displays. The displays would provide a backdrop for patrons looking into the windows of the store. The 4’x4′ units are light enough though that they can be moved around when more space is needed. Each features a wall panel and integrated hanging rail for wall art. The elevated base can display dimensional art products such as furniture or sculptures. Paint and stain that matches the rest of the historical space completes the look, and makes for a neutral presentation. Perfect for highlighting the wonderfully unique works of art that guests can view and purchase.

In addition to being a fine art gallery, Hudson Fine Art & Framing also caters to customers who need framing and frame restoration services. As is common in framing shops there are is a vast array of frame samples for customers to choose from. Most often these samples sit flat on a wall and take up a lot of space. Occasionally a spinner is out posted for frame samples, once again taking up precious space.

We were tasked with organizing the frame samples in a more efficient yet effective manner. The design we came up with is a one of a kind frame sample wall display, with page frames that can be browsed – flipped back and forth.

We started out by measuring the current square footage of the frame samples in the old store, and figured out that eight (8) two-sided panels would display the bulk of the samples currently in inventory. Each panel holds about 150-200 samples each. Overall the unit measures 66″ wide and about 90″ tall. The unit takes up a fraction of the wall space that would be needed if you spread that many samples out on a flat wall.

The unit consists of a lower base, upper wall unit and the page assemblies. We designed the frames and had Armstrong Products in Oklahoma custom make them for us – round tube frames with a black “carpet” wrap. The samples adhere to the panels with velcro. We fabricated the wood components in-house, finishing them in a walnut stain to match the rest of the store interior. The upper and lower parts of the display are bolted securely to the wall and the panels simply drop in.

In all my years of designing retail solutions, this one display is one of my favorites. It truly is simple and innovative. It also looks and functions great. All hallmarks of what we bring to the table as retail designers.

The client is so happy that we have plans of adding another, smaller display down the road to showcase additional frame samples.

Take the time to stop by and view all of the wonderful art at Hudson Fine Art & Framing. And be sure to check out their one-of-a-kind frame display.

The only frame sample display we know of that looks and functions like this space saving design by Chris Weigand Design

The only frame sample display we know of that looks and functions like this space saving design by Chris Weigand Design

Latest Project – Open Door Coffee Company

(We just wrapped up two local projects that were pretty interesting. I need to get some better photos but for now I’ll share what I’ve got.  Here is the write up for the first one. These are both for independent retailers.  If that sounds like you, and you would like some help with your next retail design project, visit us at or send me an email at to talk about what you’ve got going on. We’d love to help.

-Chris Weigand)

The installed cash wrap awaiting register, pastries and customers.

The installed cash wrap awaiting register, pastries and customers.

Open Door Coffee Company

Open Door is a new coffee shop, whose doors opened for a preview night this past Saturday in Hudson, Ohio. The cafe “opens the door” for customers to enjoy fair trade coffee, tasty pastries, even live music and poetry readings.

We met with the owners as they were mid way into refurbishing what was once an old neighborhood drug store. The building is over a hundred years old. It’s a perfect corner spot for a coffee shop. Right in the center of the interior space stands an old marble soda bar. The bar colors, pink and dark green, are difficult to work with, but regardless it’s a great feature that brings back fond memories to local residents who grew up sitting at that bar ordering sodas on warm summer days.

Adjacent to the bar we were tasked with designing and building a cash-wrap with storage below and a partition for pastry display. Budget was a major concern. As with any new shop, funds are spread thin, but cash wrap is a necessity. We could make something from the ground up, but was there a way to offset some of the cost?

The answer was found in the basement, but not necessary where we stared looking. The owners mentioned an old granite top in the basement – so we took a look. Our thought was it could save us the expense of fabricating a laminate top. Turns out the granite color was worse than the bar marble, or at least the combo together would have been awful.

While we were down there though the owners mentioned an old pharmacy cabinet in the next room. Maybe that could help save some money.

Turns out the cabinet dimensions, 25″ deep x 80″ long x 34″ tall, were perfect. The hefty frame would be a great skeleton for mounting a new counter top to.  And you can’t buy the charm you get with reusing an old piece of furniture. In fact several old merchant pieces already found a home upstairs in the cafe.

We got the okay from the landlord to repurpose the unit. We were excited at the find and excited to be giving a second life to the unit, which likely dated from half a century ago.

The plan was simple: install a new laminate top, and attach an old door to the front face. The owners had several doors that were salvaged from local farm houses that we could use. The patina on the one we chose for the cash wrap was a light green, with cracking that you couldn’t replicate if you tried. A few days later the doors and cabinet were loaded up and on their way to our shop.

For the counter we selected Wilsonart 7922 Brighton Walnut. It’s color and grain was a perfect match for the existing century old wood work in the store. The cabinet had a few subtle trim details that we were able to retain. The old door fit perfectly between trim and cabinet. We cut a second door to wrap the one corner and installed a shelf inside. During construction the glass bypass doors were discovered, as well as additional shelves, so that help offset costs as well. Installing the counter brought our finished height up to 36″, which kept us within ADA guidelines.

A low “fence” surround was fabricated for the register; made simply of 3/4″ boards wrapped in laminate. We installed a tempered glass sneeze guard around the area that pastries would be displayed. As of this writing, we’re waiting on one more piece of glass for the sneeze guard: we decided to cover all three sides instead of just two. Adjacent to the wrap will be a custom display case that will be lower than we originally planned. Thus the additional sneeze guard.

Everyone seems very pleased with the results. It was an awesome opportunity to help a new independent retailer open shop. And it goes without saying repurposing furniture that has a history is very rewarding from a spiritual standpoint, not to mention environmental and financial standpoints as well.

The finished wrap helps convey the Open Door Coffee Company brand, and lends a degree of authenticity you just don’t get from mass-produced displays.

Do stop by for a cup of coffee, delicious pastry, and start making your very own memories.

A drawing that is typical of what we use when designing and fabricating a custom piece for a retail store.

A drawing that is typical of what we use when designing and fabricating a custom piece for a retail store.

The unit was not light. It took three of us to lift it off the trailer and through the front door.

The unit was not light. It took three of us to lift it off the trailer and through the front door.