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 www.chrisweiganddesign.com or contact us at chris@chrisweiganddesign.com 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

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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 www.chrisweiganddesign.com or send me an email at chris@chrisweiganddesign.com 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.

 

I Don’t Think Retail Stores Are Going Anywhere

photo from Corbis.com

photo from Corbis.com

Maybe I’m naive but I don’t think physical “brick and mortar” (as the cliché goes) stores are going anywhere. Though, with a degree of good reason that does seem to be the word going around when having casual conversations about retail, or perusing the retail industry news sites. After all, online is prevalent, new and convenient. Stores can be a messy ordeal, limiting and inconvenient.

I recently met with several independent retailers and had some really nice conversations. Though one of the merchants I met had mentioned that they thought retailing wasn’t what it used to be like; that online retailers were going to put them all out of business. They were just waiting for retirement, then they’d close up their shop. As a retail designer, whose livelihood sort of depends on this sort of thing, I didn’t really know what to say. I mean after all, I may be biased. But frankly, in the scope of the daily tasks for my life’s work I don’t get to hung up on the online vs. brick-n-mortar battle.

So I’ve been thinking about it.

First of all, the economy tanking didn’t leave too many sectors untouched and certainly retail took a hit, regardless of where consumers were buying their goods. On the other side of the recession no one would argue the world is a different place.

Here we have online retailing presumably booming and old-fashioned stores on their supposed deathbed. Here are my thoughts:

It Depends On What You’re Shopping For

When I need a water filter, or rare commodity such as food safe bins for storing honey frames, yes I shop online. I need these items at the lowest price and I don’t have time to hunt all over Northeast Ohio for them. But if I, or anyone for that matter hopefully, needs something unique, immediately or something that tangibly needs to be evaluated, it’s hard to beat a traditional store. Especially if I want it today. On any given weekend I will goto Lowe’s seemingly fifteen times. There are customers who will not wait for Amazon to deliver a peach tree, car battery or children’s book. And of course there are those that will wait. Point is, for everything you can wait on, I’ll need today, and vice versa.

Some People Still Like To Shop

I love shopping. I don’t know if it’s because of my job or my job is a result of that love. I enjoy going to the store, hunting…pecking…talking to merchants, discovering and bring one or many things home with me. I like feeling special in well done store environments. I like spending time with my family in the car, going to the store and having a shared experience I can’t get whipping out my credit card and typing on my Apple keyboard at home. I think that people who like to get out in the world and interact with humans aren’t limited to just one demographic. There may not be as many as there used to be, but they still have a lot of buying power.

People Want Authenticity

I believe there is a large enough group of shoppers that, if they are going to spend money, they value the story behind what they are buying. They want to tangibly hold it, learn about it and buy it in person. Whether it’s locally grown food, unique crafted items, or an expensive handbag. Online has it’s limitations and doesn’t check off all of our emotional and primeval needs as humans.

Keep in mind, I do believe the marketplace is changing, so merchants need to adjust as well. But also remember, despite the adversity, there still are a lot of people in this world; you only need a small percentage to buy your goods or services to flourish.

So what to do?

Determine Why You Exist

I rhetorically ask this of clients all the time: why do you exist? Take the example of the shop owner who thinks brick and mortar is done for. Of course it is, unless you change the game in your favor. Looking around, why would anyone get in their car or hop a train to come here and buy this stuff? Why do you exist? Differentiate your product and your customer experience based on what sets you apart. Otherwise I’ll just go on Amazon or Etsy, click, click and wait for the UPS guy to ring the bell.

Communicate Your Special-ness To Guests

If your store looks the same as it always has: slat wall, a handful of display cases, prescribed layouts, random crap everywhere, then I have little incentive to once again travel all the way out to your place. If guests have to deal with down-trodden associates, poor customer service and a maddening shopping experience then yes, retail stores are dead. Guests are savvy and they don’t have a lot of money, give them reasons to get butterflies when they visit your store. Show them why your place is the only place to get that item or service.

Be Consistent In Everything You Do

I’m a strong believer that consistency can do much of the heavy lifting for you, so you can get back to keeping an eye on the big picture. So often merchants fuss over the details and never think about the big picture. Figure out what makes you special and make sure that drives everything you do. Every touch point guests have with your stores should either overtly or subconsciously connect them to you: from the parking lot, to the merchandising, to customer service to, get this, your online store or experience (yes you should have one of those too by the way). Consistent, consistent, consistent. Heck if I walk into the bathroom at your store it should be on brand with your philosophy.

Evolve, Adapt, Engage….Keep Working At It

It’s not an easy job (that’s where we can help you by the way, so you don’t get stressed out). You have to determine what sets you apart, pay attention to the detail, execute, then guess what? Stay with it. Listen to guests, do your homework, have a short and long-term goals, constantly work at it. Do not, please do not just set up a bunch of stuff on slat wall and old mannequins waiting for the door to open. Don’t cram a bunch of stuff in your store, put it all on sale and scratch your head. Guess where I can find a bunch of stuff crammed into a “store” on sale? Online. Is that why you exist?

Every retailer is different, but not every retailer acts differently enough to keep guests engaged and wanting to come back.

Brink and mortar stores aren’t all going away. But you do have to up your game if you’re going to be among those that flourish.

Best of luck to you.

I for one can’t wait to go shopping.

-Chris Weigand

President, Chris Weigand Design, LLC

Chris Weigand Design is a retail consultancy focused on helping independent retailers and brands connect with guests at retail. Chris has over 17 years experience as a designer, manager and consultant. His solutions can be found in over 30,000 retail doors from the largest chains down to one off displays in single stores. When he’s not working you may find him lost, on purpose, in a book store: a brick and mortar he hopes never goes away.

For Authentic Retail Experience, Shop Local.

Terry-Lumber-accessory-table

I love going to our local hardware store / lumber yard. Terry Lumber Supply has been a fixture in the Peninsula area for over 70 years. The last 28 years they’ve been selling lumber, hardware and supplies out of their current location in our local Ohio hometown.

Even if you aren’t a retail designer, or merchant, a trip to Terry Lumber Supply is a treat, especially if you like to explore. It’s not a large store but it packs plenty of opportunities to browse; discovering things that you might need for that weekend project or the “to do” list your spouse handed to you.

The interior is not overwrought in my opinion. Walls are simply painted white and the ceiling is a grid of tiles. A cupola with clearstory windows adds a stream of natural daylight for the center of the store. Beyond that degree of simplicity though guests are welcome to explore rambling aisles and a plethora of old displays. I suspect many of the displays date clear back to when the store was founded by John J. “Terry” Montaquila in 1940. And they are still being used to display modern products. As a designer it’s like walking through a retail display museum. I always feel like I need to go back and spend more time there. That being said, there is a lot packed into one store; giving it the charm of times past. But it’s an authentic charm. Not manufactured and not trying to fool you. That case holding threaded rods? It’s the real deal, likely pulled from a local library decades ago.

There is a full complement of tools, plumbing supplies and paint. Each area has been curated and shaped over the years; merchandising product without fanfare, but with a unique local feeling.

It just feels like “home”.

In one corner is the most wondrously quaint fastener area. Nails and screws sit in open bins and are bought by the pound, using a vintage scale, presumably the same way as you would buy such things nearly a century ago. You just don’t get that experience in a big box store. That same sentiment extends to other areas as well. It’s what really differentiates this independent retailer from its mass brethren. When you go there your project feels more special, more historical. You’re not just buying commodity boards of wood and a hammer, you’re human, you’re part of something.

An old scale for weighing nails for sale by the pound.

An old scale for weighing nails for sale by the pound.

Terry-Lumber-tail-display-2

I’ve learned to go right to the spacious desk area and ask for input from the staff on my latest supply needing endeavor back at the homestead. Accessibility, courtesy and knowledge of associates also sets them apart, just as it should in any independent store front. Sure I may not be able to find everything, or the prices may be higher for particular items, but the guest experience makes it well worth any perceived tradeoffs. And actually, when we were building our home nearby, this local little shop was able to order a specific type of house wrap that couldn’t be found in any other store or sales channel.

Over time it’s definitely worth building a relationship with the team there, just as you would with an insurance person, doctor or mechanic. In the long run it’ll make life easier when you’re in a DIY bind. And building that relationship is a pure delight in such store environment. I think you can even still get a cold soda from a vintage cooler near the checkout area. And with Spring warming up, that sounds like a good way to take a break from working outside on a Saturday afternoon.

The point here is that local stores naturally gravitate towards an authentic retail experience that is difficult to recreate on a mass scale. Even so, there still are opportunities for design to improve the experience and functionality. Regardless though, as a designer it’s always refreshing to shop locally; discovering, admiring and refilling my creative spirit.

What’s your favorite local store that you love to explore?

What is it about the store that makes you smile?

Answer below in the comments, after the photos.

-Chris Weigand

President, Chris Weigand Design

Chris has been designing retail displays and environments for nearly 17 years. Chris Weigand Design is focused on making design accessible to independent retailers. Contact us today by visiting www.chrisweiganddesign.com

2014 GlobalShop Recap Part 1 – Notable Retail Suppliers

Okay, I just got back from Vegas where Globalshop 2014 was held at Mandalay Bay. It was a good show and a decent crowd. Going out for just a day or two essentially, was not enough time. I spent most of Wednesday meeting with retailers, talking about their business and providing my retail design thoughts and ideas.

I did sneak in some time to view all the displays up for “awards” at the show, as well as walked the show floor. I’ll cover my thoughts on the awards displays in another post. For this post though let me touch and a handful of suppliers that I found interesting enough to stop and talk to. I’m not formally endorsing these companies, and certainly not being paid by them (although if they want to pay me, who am I to argue…just kidding. Everything you read here is strictly my opinion and not an endorsement). As a designer, I will keep them in mind the next time we’re working on a project that could benefit from their goods and services.

RichliteSolid Surface – I was high tailing it through the show, with only an hour left to see everything before the end of the day, but I just had to stop at the Richlite booth. I was attracted by what looked like a solid surface material, which it is but it’s made out of paper! When we were building our house I did a lot of research into solid surfacing materials, and ultimately landed on quartz. I’m not sure I would have changed my mind had I known, but the paper based material intrigues me no less. I could definitely see using it for commercial or retail areas, especially in a desk area. I love that you can get up to three inches thick, creating really stunning scale and proportion. The mottled color palette is sweet earthy goodness too. There are even core options, to get a stripe or bamboo look. And the material’s environmental sustainability qualities are wonderful too. The material can be machined with regular woodworking equipment and is FSC & GREENGUARD certified. Check out their informative website to learn more.

photo from Richlite.com website.

photo from Richlite.com website.

Secto Design Lighting – These simple Scandinavian lights caught my eye as was rushing to get lunch. The were well worth the trek back towards the end of the show when I actually had time to stop. The lattice like shades are made from slats of wood, in Finland and can use energy saving bulbs.

Photo by Chris Weigand

Photo by Chris Weigand

B+N Industries, Inc.Wall System“System 1224”, so named because the panels are 12″ x 24″, is pretty cool. Like most modular systems it’s fairly simple to spec and execute at retail. You have simple 8′ rails that you mount to the wall, 24″ on center, then plug-in your choice of panels. The end result is a contemporary slat wall system with a seemingly infinite array of accessories including shelves and drawers. You can spec the panels in a variety of finishes including powder coat, printed images, to even light boxes and leather! I can’t wait to get my hands on a project where we can try out the system. The creative possibilities are endless.

Photo from BNIND.com

Photo from BNIND.com

Toppan Fortina Printed Metal Extrusion – The B+N rep also took a second to show me Fortina printed aluminum extrusion. The come in a myriad of profiles and wood finishes. They are a nice, stable and recyclable alternative to real wood architectural trim; perfect for adding visual warmth to contemporary retail spaces. The profiles can be used to great effect vertically, horizontally, in a line or staggered, among other ways.

image from toppan-cosmo.jp/fortina/english/

image from toppan-cosmo.jp/fortina/english/

Visual MagneticsMagnetic Paint & Substrates – I think I had seen their ad somewhere and made a point of stopping by their booth. Visual Magnetics make paint infused iron so that magnets adhere to the paint. The idea being that you can then put a sign anywhere without messing up the wall. And installation is as simple as putting your old jeans on and grabbing a roller. They even sell magnetic material that your printer can print your graphics onto. As a retail designer, I love, love, love the flexibility this gives retailers. It’s a great idea for pop-up stores.

GLV CompanyDecorative Slatwall – Slatwall is the bane of every retail designer. Merchants and bean counters love it because it’s a flexible and economical way to merchandise product. The problem is nothing screams “cheap” or “I need a makeover” like a store filled with slatwall. Well I couldn’t help but stop when I saw the slatwall GLV Company had on display. The solid MDF panels are machined and painted to look like brick, metal or other finishes that are decidedly not traditional slatwall looking. In fact I really like the corrugated metal version because I couldn’t really see the slats anymore. The also manufacture some nice accessories as well. If you must use slatwall, please consider using something other than the usual 3″ on center almond stuff that your grandfather spec’d.

image from glvco.com

image from glvco.com

WAC LightingLighting – I get a lot of questions on lighting so I made sure I stopped by a few lighting booths before the show closed on Wednesday. One of them was WAD Lighting out of Port Washington, NY. They offer a variety of nice lighting fixtures for all kinds of applications, including some very nice down lights. As with most lighting suppliers, LED’s have become prevalent. When specifying lighting for your store, make sure you’re using LED’s whenever possible to save money and electricity in the long run.

photo from waclighting.com

photo from waclighting.com

Amerlux, LLC Lighting – Next door I scampered over to the Amerilux lighting booth as well. They too offer a variety of LED lighting solutions for your retail store. As with any reputable lighting supplier, the folks over at Amerlux will be able to work directly with your retail designer, architect and you to specify and supply a lighting package that is perfect for your store.

image from amerlux.com

image from amerlux.com

SupplyOne Retail Store ServicesStore Operations Supplies – A home town shout-out to these guys and gals who were manning the booth adjacent to where I was giving design consolations. Based in nearby Cleveland, Ohio, SupplyOne provided packaging, cleaning supplies and even displays for retailers. They’re about as nice of people as you’ll meet and they can make running a retail business easier for you.

Superior DisplayCustom Caseware – These wood and glass jewelry, and display cases are hand-made by craftsmen in Bend, Oregon. They can make cases to your specifications and ship out fully assembled. Their catalog includes over a hundred standard items as well. When you’re ready to outfit your new store, check them out.

image from superiordisplay.com

image from superiordisplay.com

Alright, that’s my review of some of the suppliers I had the pleasure of talking to at GlobalShop this year. I’ll cover some of the other things I saw in subsequent posts so stay tuned.

Did you goto GlobalShop and see any exhibitors that you’d like to give a shout-out to? Do so in the comments below.  Happy retailing peeps!

-Chris Weigand

President, Chris Weigand Design, LLC

We are a retail design consultancy specializing in helping independent retailers and product brands create really awesome retail experiences that make people smile, and excited to be shopping. We also focus on environmentally sustainable solutions, as well as stay on top of the latest retail and design trends. Visit us at www.chrisweiganddesign.com to learn more and contact us today.  Thanks.

Design For Independent Retailers

photo via Corbisimages.com

photo via Corbisimages.com

In honor of Global Shop next week we thought we’d would share with you our thoughts on how independent retailers can benefit from engaging the services of a retail design consultancy. Regardless of whether run a “pop-up”, one store or a dozen stores it’s worth considering enlisting some outside help if you want and need it to give your retail experience a shot in the arm.

A Design Team Works Within Your Budget

You are the expert when it comes to your business. We’ll say that time and time again. You built it from the ground up. There’s no denying your knowledge and dedication. Why would you need or want a design consultant?

Well, sometimes it’s good to get a fresh set of eyes looking at something. They can provide experienced and professional insight. And it may be worth getting some help so you can step back to concentrate on other aspects of the business that need your attention more. A consultant costs as much, or as little as you have budgeted for your project. And they can help immensely.

As a retail design consultancy we start by meeting with you to review your business; learn from you the opportunities you face and assess areas where we can add value. A retail design services can run from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars depending on the scope and complexity of the project. The services you’ll receive are outlined in a proposal ahead of time, and each phase can be agreed upon to suit your time and budgetary needs. Truly, no project is too big or small.

Retail Designers Offer A Variety Of Services

Whether you are just starting out or you’ve been in the business for ages, it is critical that you connect to customers and your brand speaks with one voice. There are a variety of ways a design team can help. Here are some examples that would be of benefit to independent retailers:

Graphic Design – this includes branding, such as creating a logo or style guide for your store. Also graphic design covers in store signage and way-finding. The designers can use art, illustration, typography and photography to create inspiring graphics that hit your guests sense of style and emotion, putting them in the frame of mind to fall in love with your brand. Related to graphics is packaging design – so if you have a need to actually brand product, say juice bottles, soap or salon products – the design team can design those solutions as well to give a cohesive brand message to guests.

Interior Design – this is retail experience on a macro level. Everything on the inside of your store, from flooring to walls to lighting and ceiling influences how guests feel while they are shopping. Also space planning which is important, so that your store has good traffic flow. It can be as simple as rearranging and curating what you already have, to a complete extreme store makeover.

Visual Merchandising & Display Design – in concert with graphics, the design of the displays and fixtures that your products go on can make a impact on the experience. Your designer can select stock displays or design custom ones that can be made within your budget. Displays make sure your product is the star and is delightful to shop. Visual Merchandising attracts and helps tell your story.

Project Management & Sourcing – the design team can manage the project from kickoff, to design brief, through design and specification, ultimately to retail implementation. Designers are experts at managing multiple programs and assuring they are completed to specification, on time and on budget. Especially if you are trying something out for the first time, having sourcing help can come in handy.

Research, Trends, and Sustainability Consulting – design firms are a great resource for the latest trends, or areas where you may not be as knowledgable such as environmental sustainability. Plus if you need someone to research the market, your competition or your customers, a consultancy can provide those services. This can help your business beyond just how your store looks and functions.

A Retail Design Team Works With You

As I said, you’re the expert when it comes to your brand. Meet with your designers and assess your unique business and brand situation. Then the design team will make recommendations and provide design solutions as necessary. Equally important they’ll tell you what you don’t need. It certainly is not a one person dance; the design team you’ve hired is your partner. They’ll bring fresh perspective and interesting ideas, and be able to work seamlessly with your in-house resources. In the end your brand story will attract and connect with guests at every touch point. And you will save yourself from the frustration, not to mention time and money, of trying to do everything yourself.

You may not need an outside design firm to help you out. I’ve been in plenty of independent retailers that are doing an awesome job all by themselves. But at least be aware that these services are out there. They add value to the most critical part of your business: telling your brand story to guests. Take advantage of the professional perspective, creativity and talent that a retail design team can bring to your store.

The brand you built deserves it.

In what ways do you think you could benefit from engaging a retail designer?

If you don’t use a designer, why not?

Share your thoughts in the comments below. Happy retailing merchant peeps!

Chris Weigand has been designing innovative retail solutions for over 15 years. The results of his work can be found in over 30,000 retail doors, enhancing the shopper experience and improving sales. If you are an independent retailer who would like to find out how Chris Weigand Design can help your brand connect with guests, visit our website at www.chrisweiganddesign.com We are actively looking for great new clients to partner with, creating awesome retail experiences.

A Retail Design Roadmap For Product Brands

Make your product the star.  RF image via Corbis.com

Make your product the star.
RF image via Corbis.com

It’s all about the product silly

You’ve got a product.

Your team has been working on it for months, maybe years. Focus groups love it. Everything is perfect. You may even be selling it online and sales have been awesome. Retailers are clamoring for it and you are ready to make the jump to physically selling your product in a store.

If your brand is new to retail (e.g. a small company, or just starting out) you may not be sure what to do next. Not surprisingly we highly recommend you speak with a retail design consultancy who will be able to access your situation, provide a recommendation as well as design and other services if necessary. Obviously partnering with you is where they make their money, but an initial conversation shouldn’t cost much, if anything, and it’ll be a huge help. Full disclosure: this is what we do for a living so if you need someone…wink, wink. Seriously though, even if you don’t hire us, these guidelines are fairly universal as far as we’re concerned. We not convinced that going straight to a manufacture is always the best route, as they are primarily interested in making things that you may or may not need, that may or may not be in sync with your product and brand. Ask a lot of questions if you’re just starting out.

“…your product needs to be the star of the show.”

First and foremost, you may be able to simply ship your product into the retailer and they’ll take it from there. This will save you a lot of time and money (and hassle). The primary down side is that you may not control how your product is merchandised.  The retailer will do whatever they please, or whatever you can work out with them. On the plus side they want to sell your product too. Cross your fingers. If this is the case, spend extra time working on your packaging design and packaging graphics. Your product packaging is going to have to do all of the heavy lifting at retail to shout your brand and attract guests who hopefully convert to customers who will buy your product. In fact regardless of the situation at retail, spend time (and money) on your packaging design, especially the graphics. Regardless of whatever else you do, your product needs to be the star of the show. One quick note: make sure you’re branding is in good order too – great packaging and graphic design won’t cover up an incoherent brand message.

Suppose you have a little more leeway – you’ve got the budget, the retailer asks or allows you to provide display or graphics, whatever the case may be. Your brand shouts loud and clear through your exquisitely designed packaging. Now you want to amp up your retail experience. Here are a few ways you can do this.

Graphics / Signage – These will give you the most bang for your buck, and flexibility. Signs generally are inexpensive and require little or no tooling. These are good qualities for agile product brands looking to make an impact at retail. Signs can fit into stock or custom holders. The store may even already have graphic holders in place. The possibilities are endless for size and location: small shell callouts, headers that assist with way finding, aisle signs, overhead…there are a lot of options. Start with attracting and informing guests – put them in the right mindset to buy your product, and go from there. Your retail design consultancy will develop attention-getting graphics that make guests swoon when they catch sight of your product at retail. Art files in hand you can use your favorite printer or a good consultancy can handle the sourcing and project management portion to assure signs are produced to spec, on budget and delivered to each retail door on time.

Temporary Display – These are any displays that are meant to be recycled once your product sells out. Occasionally you may restock these display but not usually. They’re typically made from corrugated board, and designed to last around six months at retail give or take 3-6 months. We really love temp displays for a few reasons. In this day and age they can look really nice, with litho labels and exotic finishes. Or if you want to go the opposite route, direct-printing has gotten so refined that you probably don’t need anything more than that. Retailers are mixed on how well they like temp displays, so work it out with them first. Temp displays can be as simple as a PDQ (pretty “damn” quick) that is simply a box that is shipped, opened up and put on a shelf, to elaborate display environments that showcase your brand. Your design consultancy will be able to leverage their expertise and creativity to develop an awesome solution for your product, and once again help if necessary throughout the process to get both your product and display out to retail.

Permanent Displays – Permanent means that they are meant to last up to seven years or so at retail, give or take a few years. They are often made from wood, plastic or metal and the product is restocked whenever it runs out. Depending on how they are designed, costs can rise quickly because tooling for jigs, fixtures, dies and molds may be involved; costing anywhere from a thousand to tens of thousand of dollars. That being said, a good designer will be review / manage expectations and design to a budget. You need to determine to what extent the display is the star of the show. Too often we’ve seen brands and retailers try to make up for middling product by creating overwrought displays. Have an open conversation with the retail design team that you’ve hired. As I’ve said, we like to have the product and the brand experience be the focus for guests, displays are a means to that end. Another thing to consider is modularity. If you have a family of products or retailers that your product is going into, a modular system can help lower cost and increase flexibility. Once the design phase is complete, your consultancy can either hand you the final specs or help see the entire project through to retail execution.

Ultimately everything needs to work in concert. The above are just three simplified examples….tools designers use to market your product and brand at retail. And really the best way to find out is to talk with a design consultant about your project. It’s like building a house, you can pick a plan out of a book, rely on your general contractor to handle the design and build, or hire an architect. The first two might be okay for your product or brand situation. But if you don’t want to leave things to chance, if your brand is more than a commodity, just as your home is more than just a building, you should consider hiring a retail design consultancy. Like an architect, the consultancy works with you from start to finish to imagine, design and specify a solution that is perfect for your brand, product and retail situation. And they are a valuable voice for your brand throughout the process when dealing with vendors and retailers as well.

“Of all the things you could get for free, why would your brand  gamble with seemingly free design?”

No, design isn’t free. But it is the most important money you will spend and it is a fraction of the cost of your overall retail program. Design decisions influence so much downstream, one hiccup during the design phase can translate into death at retail. If you think you’re getting “free” design, there is no such thing; it’s likely bundled into the price of something else down stream. Your brand isn’t a commodity, it shouldn’t be treated as such; left to chance with the lowest bidder. You know this, after all you designed your product in-house or paid someone to design it. Of all the things you could get for free, why would your brand gamble with seemingly free design?

A retail design consultancy will provide awesome solutions and help guide you throughout the process, eliminating  many of the pitfalls that you would face if you went at it alone.

Does your organization pay for design? Why or why not? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

-Chris Weigand

President, Chris Weigand Design, LLC

Chris Weigand Design, LLC is professional retail design consultancy based in northeast Ohio. We strongly believe that a design consultancy is your best bet for assuring your product is merchandised at retail properly and guests fall in love with your brand. Contact us today to find out how we can help you with expert graphic, display and interior design services. Beyond design, if you need help managing the production of your solutions, we know how to make that happen also. Visit us at www.chrisweiganddesign.com