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Mannequins and Forms




Want three words that best sum up the mannequin business these days? How about “proceed with caution”? Also, “return on investment.” As visual budgets take a hit, retailers say they are left with half the money they had last year for props, fixtures, mannequins and other enhancements. So they’re treading carefully, purchasing with more caution and flexing their creative chops with items they already own.

“Every company expense or investment – from mannequins to light bulbs – is being thoroughly scrutinized,” says Victor Johnson, the director of store environment for women’s specialty apparel retailer White House | Black Market (Fort Myers, Fla.). “If we’re going to spend money, the return on investment needs to be significant and immediate.”

ROI has always been difficult to measure in this industry. The “I” is high. Mannequins tend to be one of the pricier items on a retailers’ visual budget. Maintenance, employee time and refurbishing can also be expensive. And there’s no solid science to measure a mannequin’s “R.”

But for Johnson, who insists mannequin presentations influence traffic and sales in quick, positive ways, the silent sellers are a justifiable expense when carefully planned. So he intends to test a handful of newly purchased mannequins, mixed with existing forms, focusing the investment on key vignettes in high-profile store locations such as Las Vegas or Chicago.

Stephanie Picone, director of marketing and visual at IZOD Retail, a branch of Phillips-Van Heusen Corp. (New York), agrees that mannequins must remain a key component of her business – but that the business is changing. “Retailers aren’t using mannequins any less,” she says. “But in the last year, we’ve started looking for mannequins that are cost-effective and have more longevity or durability.”

Longevity is a relative term, of course. With proper care, a traditional fiberglass mannequin can maintain its luster for as long as 20 years. In fact, luxury retailer Barneys New York has preserved some of its in-house mannequin designs for more than two decades, according to Matt Reed, the company’s vp of display. But longevity also depends on maintenance.

“Retailers need to make an accurate and honest assessment of who’s going to be handling mannequins,” says Ignaz Gorischek, vp of store development and visual planning at Neiman Marcus (Dallas). “Fiberglass is clearly more fragile than some of the other materials out there so, unless they’re being handled by professional stylists, finishes and materials become very important when selecting a mannequin.”

And that’s another element of the problem. Retailers have been downsizing or eliminating their in-store visual staffs for years – and, in this economy, it will only get worse. But for those retailers that lack the in-house resources or know-how to treat fiberglass mannequins with kid gloves, alternative materials that have made leaps and bounds in recent years may afford greater durability.

Mannequin manufacturers are experimenting with these alternative materials. For example, Los Angeles-based Greneker has incorporated a soy-based line; Bernstein Display (Brooklyn, N.Y.) features mannequins in its break-resistant B-lastic material; and Fusion Specialties (Broomfield, Colo.) uses its durable, color-infused E-Flex material, which it says reduces breakage and paint chipping.

Italian manufacturer Almax creates its mannequins from a long-lasting, recyclable polystyrene material, some of which are featured in Hugo Boss stores. “Our mannequins are super heavy, but they don’t ever break,” says Lisa Chamberlin, Hugo Boss’ director of visual merchandising. “It’s not something we ever have to worry about. They’re sturdy and durable.”

How do these durable styles stack up when it comes to costs? “At many of the mannequin houses, the more-durable fabrication is also one-third of the price of a fiberglass mannequin,” says IZOD’s Picone. That price tag varies, of course, depending on the type of material used, the quantity ordered, where it’s produced (domestic- or European-made versus China) or even how it’s produced and sold. For example, Mondo Mannequins (Hicksville, N.Y.) says it makes a more cost-effective fiberglass mannequin at its China facility by increasing production speed and selling direct to its retail clients instead of through commissioned reps.

For some retailers, a mannequin produced from an unbreakable material at a fraction of the cost of classic fiberglass seems a no-brainer. But there are still plenty of advantages to using fiberglass. “The finish that can be achieved on fiberglass mannequins is typically nicer than other materials,” says Neiman Marcus’ Gorischek. “For example a foundry finish, which is sanded raw fiberglass straight from the mold, cannot be achieved any other way. And it also takes special finishes like gloss lacquer or metal paint better.”

Lower prices may be tempting, especially these days, but Gorischek cautions against cutting too many corners when it comes to mannequins. “We’ve found that if you try to value engineer too far, it haunts you,” he says. “The old adage is true: ‘You get what you pay for.’ ”


5400 Armand Frappier
St. Hubert, QC J3Z 1G5

Adel Rootstein
205 W. 19th St.
New York, NY 10011

44 Via Boaresco
Mariano Comense, Italy 22066

Alternatives Plus Manufacturing
372 Vermont Route 67
Shaftsbury, VT 05262

Via Cascina Restelli, 5
Aicurzio, Milan, Italy 20040

Bernstein Display
325 Gold St., 5th Flr.
Brooklyn, NY 11201

6600 Artesia Blvd.
Buena Park, CA 90620

DK Display
147 W. 25th St.
New York, NY 10001

Frank Glover Productions
138 W. 25th St., 4th Flr.
New York, NY 10001

Fusion Specialties
2400 Industrial Ln.
Broomfield, CO 80020

601 W. 26th St., Studio 350
New York, NY 10001

3110 E. 12th St.
Los Angeles, CA 90023

Hans Boodt Mannequins
Merwedeweg 6
3336 LG Zwijndrecht
The Netherlands

Hipex Mannequins Co.
Tian Ma OSC Ind. Zone, Gang Tou, Hou Xi
Xiamen, China 361022

King Manichini
47/49 Via Cattani
Carpi, Modena, Italy 41012

La Rosa
Via Coti Zelati 90
Palazzolo Milanese, Milan, Italy 20030

Via S. Zeno 2/C
Arzignano, Italy 36071

Lifestyle Forms & Displays
151 W. 25th St., 3rd Fl.
New York, NY 10001

Manex/France Display
126 W. 25th St.
New York, NY 10001

Maniquies Sempere
Pol Industrial 11
Calle Cocentaina 1
P.O. Box 10 Castalla
Alicante, Spain 03420

Mannequins Bonami
Jh.P. Coppietersdreef 31B
Brugge, Belgium 8200

Mondo Mannequins
300 Karin Ln.
Hicksville, NY 11801

MVM, Meric Display Mannequins
Irmak Cad. No:10 Beyoglu
Istanbul, Turkey

New John Nissen
Hoogstraat 202
Zaventem, Belgium B-1930

15650 Salt Lake Ave.
City of Industry, CA 91745

Proportion London
9 Dallington St.
London, UK EC1V 0LN

Ralph Pucci
44 W. 18th St., 12th Flr.
New York, NY 10011

10205 Parkway Blvd.
Montreal, QC H1J 1P7

Seven Continents
945 Wilson Ave., Ste. 1
Toronto, ON M3K 1E8

Siegel & Stockman
126 W. 25th St., Ground Floor
New York, NY 10001

8125 Beach St.
Los Angeles, CA 90001

Universal Display and Design
138 W. 25th St.
New York, NY 10001



MasterClass: ‘Re-Sparkling’ Retail: Using Store Design to Build Trust, Faith and Brand Loyalty

HOW CAN WE EMPOWER and inspire senior leaders to see design as an investment for future retail growth? This session, led by retail design expert Ian Johnston from Quinine Design, explores how physical stores remain unmatched in the ability to build trust, faith, and loyalty with your customers, ultimately driving shareholder value.

Presented by:
Ian Johnston
Founder and Creative Director, Quinine Design

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