Promoting the Use of Lesser-Known Timber Species

Tropical Rainforest Thailand --- Image by © Corbis

Tropical Rainforest Thailand — Image by © Corbis

Yesterday I read an interesting article in ‘International Wood’, an International Wood Products Association (IWPA) trade publication, about a topic I didn’t previously know about: the use of lesser-known timber species. I found the information to be well worth passing along to our readers. Here’s my summary, followed by some helpful resources on the topic.

Exotic, often times tropical, woods are much in vogue these days. As such there is high commercial demand for, or regulations regarding the use of, several species such ipe, mahogany, and ebony, which in turn drives up price and reduces available inventory. More importantly, there’s a chance many tropical woods, not just the ones mentioned, are not forested or harvested sustainably.

The wood industry is looking to promote lesser-known species (LKS) for several reasons, and designers would be remiss if they didn’t check out the various options and think about using them in future projects.

Reasons to Consider Lesser-Known Timber Species:

  • Large Selection – The IWPA lists nine LKS’s that have great potential for the US market, including garapa which is an attractive option for building exteriors and lattice-work. The World Wildlife Fund list over two dozen species to consider in their ‘Guide to Lesser Known Species’ (click here).
  • Design – Using LKS makes your design project standout. Many of these woods look great with no need for color altering stain. And because you don’t see them that often used at retail, they look fresher than the typical wood finishes you see in store interiors. Also LKS broaden your material palette. Garapa, tigerwood, and morado are all good species to consider.
  • Cost Savings – Because they are not utilized as often, the cost is often less than high-demand wood such as mahogany, while still providing excellent durability, color, and performance. All at a fraction of the cost.
  • Sustainability – Specifying LKS of wood promotes diverse forest eco-systems, reducing the pressure on forests that provide only high demand timber. Managed correctly, wood is a renewable resource that works well in retail environments. Always make sure the lumber you specify and use is FSC certified. No exceptions.

Here are some links for more information:

World Wildlife Fund’s Global Forest & Trade Network has a ton of info on sustainable forestry: http://gftn.panda.org

International Wood Products Association’s LKS page: http://www.iwpawood.org/?page=81

The UK Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) page on LKS: http://www.fsc-uk.org/lesser-known-timber-species.155.htm

The Amazon Alternative LKS page: http://www.theamazonalternative.org/news/en/news-july-lks

The World Wildlife Fund has a comprehensive guide to lesser-known species, get it here: http://www.worldwildlife.org/publications/guide-to-lesser-known-tropical-timber-species

The U.S. Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) page: https://us.fsc.org

Have you used any lesser-known species of timber in your retail projects?

What are your favorites?

Join the discussion below in the comments.

Chris Weigand Design, LLC is committed to sharing our passion for a sustainable environment with our clients, our industry and our community. We encourage the use of sustainable materials and processes in retail design solutions. For more information on our commitment to the environment or to find out how we can develop innovative, sustainable solutions for your next retail design project, visit www.chrisweiganddesign.com or call 330.858.8926

Retailing: Putting the “Experience” in Retail Experience

I’m not afraid to admit it: I love shopping. I like parking, walking into a store, exploring and maybe even going home with a goodie or two. Shopping doesn’t even have to do with buying more stuff. Day dreaming in a store with an awesome retail experience can be fulfilling enough.

Anyway, so when the opportunity came to travel two hours south to Columbus for business, I made sure to schedule a stop at Cabela’s on the way home. Not only do they have awesome outdoor products, their retail experience is generally second to none.

Retail experience

The Columbus store is a relatively small one compared to others in this midwest based retail chain. Even smaller stores though benefit from their unique retail experience. They have real “store within a store” destinations including a den-like gun-room and bargain basement. I always enjoy taking a look at the large aquarium with native fish species represented inside, supplemented with informative signage. Behind the tank is a large “mountain” with stuffed animals (think taxidermy, not the things in your kid’s bedroom).

Hello beaver and mountain lion.

Exploring products

As with most stores I like to walk the outside “racetrack” then delve into each department. But first I made stop for lunch at the in-store cafe. I did not partake in the extensive offering of fudge, but I was delighted to sit and enjoy a smoked bison sandwich. It was really good, along with a side of potato salad. Sadly the potato salad was not made on-site.

Hunger satiated, I grabbed a shopping cart with the intent of picking up impromptu presents for the family. It was easy to find a variety of token needful things to take home: a compass, lip balm, a little bird whistle, even some jerky to snack on for the ride home. The selection was expansive and easy to navigate. For myself I scored an awesome rain coat on clearance. Each department has overhead signage, taking advantage of long sight-lines.

There are also a lot of associates who are willing to help out confused shoppers (i.e. me). As an aside, don’t forget that human beings are part of your shopping experience for guests. Make sure they understand your mission, are approachable and helpful. I had several dumb questions that were handled by store personnel with aplomb.

Omni-channel done effectively

Their catalog offers more products than you could ever put in a store of this size, so Cabela’s does a nice job of mating on-line with in-store shopping experiences. There are a half-dozen interactive kiosks peppered throughout the store. I took one for a test drive and found the familiar website experience supplemented with in-store specific options such as checking inventory, or even printing a ticket to help locate items in-store. Want something that isn’t available in store? Order it on the kiosk and get free shipping. I wonder if my item could beat me home if I was shopping further from home. Hmmm.

Cabela’s started out as a catalog merchant. As they moved into brick and mortar, retail experience has always been a foremost focus, and they’ve executed well in that light. Now as on-line and in-store start to meld it appears they’re able to leverage both areas of their expertise. As a retail designer it’s well worth a stop out to one of their stores to get inspired and get some ideas of how you can up the experience at retail. You may even go home with some jerky which isn’t a bad thing.

Check out the gallery below to see what we’re talking about.

Do you love shopping?

What are your favorite retail experiences?

Share in the comments below.

-Chris Weigand

Chris Weigand is president of Chris Weigand Design, LLC, a boutique retail design agency. He’s been creating experiences at retail for nearly 20 years. He’s been shopping for a lot longer than that. Visit their website at www.chrisweiganddesign.com for more information or to contact Chris. We welcome the chance to share our love of retail with you, and help create wonderful experiences for your guests. We don’t work for or endorse Cabela’s, we just like shopping there and other great retail stores. Buy your jerky wherever you’d like.