An Interview with Jim Hollen, President
This is the second part of a 3-part series looking at RICH LTD.'s POP display business from the inside based on an interview with Jim Hollen.
How do you define your Unique Selling Proposition and how does this help you compete?
Our unique selling proposition is closely tied to our mission, which is to create superior value for our customers. The way we execute that is two-fold. First, we focus on four primary areas:
State-of-the-Art Design- We have an extraordinary team of highly experienced and creatively gifted industrial designers who produce compelling merchandising solutions that also play to our strength as a manufacturer.
Low-cost/High Quality Manufacturing- We offer customers very competitive pricing and high quality point of purchase displays through our blended overseas and domestic manufacturing model.
Full Range of Post Production Services- Our international supply chain management capabilities and expertise in global transportation and logistics enables us to offer our customers a complete solution.
Superior Customer Service- Our customer-centric operating model is built around meeting our customer’s needs, and we do our best to provide our customers with the highest level of service in the industry.
The second part of our unique selling proposition has to do with the breadth and depth of our experience as an organization. We serve retailers and brands across a very broad range of industries including food and beverage, gift/novelty, clothing/apparel, sporting goods, sunglasses/eyewear, fashion accessories, specialty retail, health and beauty, automotive, music/entertainment, mass market retail, convenience stores, toys, publishing, greeting cards/stationery, pet supplies, and drug stores. In addition, our POP designs can be found in stores in numerous countries around the world, and we have in-depth experience managing local and regional merchandising programs as well as national roll-outs for major retailers. In the end, our ability to leverage our experience is probably the most important part of our unique selling proposition.
Does RICH LTD. have a specific research group to understand retail trends and the pulse of the market?
No, we treat market research as a collective responsibility of everyone within our company. Our designers have designed thousands of displays across dozens of industries. They visit retail locations frequently and have close contact with our customers. Our sales team attends 25-30 trade shows annually and also works closely with many of the 3500+ customers we serve. In general, we have a very customer-facing organization which enables us to keep abreast of market trends and changing customer needs.
How far do you believe a POP display can promote a brand?
If you study the evolution of in-store marketing in developed countries over the last 15-20 years, you will see that technology has been an incredibly disruptive force that has dramatically elevated the importance of point-of-purchase displays and brand building at the store level. Before that time, many brands spend heavily on TV advertising and to a lesser extent print advertising to promote their products. However, the rapid emergence of the Internet has served to create so many more channels to reach the consumer and essentially diluted the effectiveness of TV advertising. So in addition to more advertising dollars being spent on the web, a greater portion of the advertising dollars has moved to in-store to the point-of-sale.
Our experience indicates that POP displays are not only highly effective at promoting brands, but they represent an investment that has a very strong financial return by virtue of their immediate and measurable impact on sales. For example, we recently designed a t-shirt cubby display for an apparel company. Although their brand is not well known, they saw their sales increase very quickly by 170% after putting our freestanding display in stores.
Can you tell us about your research initiatives in the area of materials, processes, and technology?
We make an effort to stay abreast of as many material, process, and technology trends as possible. Our view is the material and process changes are relatively slow compared to the rapidly changing landscape of technology. The rate of change is highly correlated with the level of investment in research and development. On the material/process side, we see some innovation in areas such as high pressure laminates or powder coated MDF. However, I would characterize these innovations as marginal improvements. Perhaps the category that has attracted the most attention over the last few years is sustainable materials. Many U.S. retailers such as Wal-Mart have launched major sustainability initiatives in an effort to become more environmentally responsible. This, coupled with new environmental regulations, has forced material suppliers to modify their products. For example, all or almost all of the MDF in the U.S. is carb-compliant and capable of meeting environmental emissions standards vs. the MDF sold just a few years ago, which had a relatively high level of formaldehyde.
On the technology side, things are moving very quickly. The pace with which retailers are adopting new technology is accelerating as retailers continue to search for competitive advantage. Digital signage is one example of a technology that is gaining widespread adoption. The ability to change content on demand, by geography, and by store is seen by retailers to be a huge advantage. In-store kiosks which allow shoppers to search for and compare products, for example, are also becoming a popular way for retailers to deliver an Internet-like experience in a physical store environment, which is part of the huge omnichannel retailing movement. Similarly, retailers are trying to take advantage of the mobile communications explosion by offering in-store coupons to shoppers’ mobile phones, enabling them to download recipes and check health and nutrition facts, just to name a few. Other technologies such as electronic shelf tags are not yet widely adopted in the U.S. but hold great promise for the future.