There’s a line in June's “Next Store” column by Jim Crawford that makes me pause every time I read it: “For years, retailers have depended on products to differentiate, but the reality is that products have been largely commoditized.”
So it won’t be that pair of shoes, that t-shirt or those organic bell peppers that bring shoppers flocking to your store. Rather, as the article goes on to say, the key to survival in the 21st Century will come down to differentiation – based on expertise, content and experience. These are the elements that will make your brand stand apart. Without them, you’re just like your retail neighbor down the street.
The same is true for the manufacturers and providers working to create those one-of-a-kind spaces. Pre-recession, a fixture supplier was there to deliver retailers and design firms quality systems for displaying products. But one of the fallouts of the economic downturn was a loss of jobs in this industry. Reduced staffs mean retailers don’t have those designers on hand to brainstorm, design and deliver those in-store elements. Today’s manufacturers are filling those shoes with an array of design and consulting services, as well as production offerings.
But it’s not just the services that have changed. Looking for more than a display tool, today’s brands are also demanding custom fixture systems that assist in building a brand’s image in the eyes of their consumers and make a statement in the retail setting. The companies that are succeeding today are the ones that have adapted to this expanded calling. (For more on the state of the store fixtures industry, see the June issue.)
It’s how this year’s A.R.E. Store Fixture of the Year was created – a collaboration between the designer Yi Rook Kim of Unspace (New York) and supplier Grand + Benedicts (Portland, Ore.). Together they turned a hand-drawn sketch into a freestanding digital tower for My.Suit that shows off the latest options in men’s custom-suit making via a high-tech screen system.
It’s a representation of fixturing in its most modernistic sense – in terms of both design process and finished product. “It’s not a mannequin or a hanger holding a suit. It’s proclaiming the idea of the suit, the idea that you can make that custom suit whatever you want it to be,” says Sherif Ayad of ID&Design (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.).
It’s also a point of differentiation.