Wood displays are trending in the retail industry and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future. This should come as no surprise to those of you who follow the POP and retail industries. We are witnessing the popularity of wood displays across a wide range of vertical markets. It’s not just retailers like REI and grocery stores. It’s brands and retailers in food and beverage, apparel, toys, sporting goods, health and beauty, consumer electronics, and many other industries. In today’s blog we’ll discuss some of the reasons why wood displays are increasing in popularity, and we’ll share a few different examples of wood displays we’ve been designing and manufacturing which we hope will provide some inspiration to the wood groupies out there.
First, let’s take a look at some of the key drivers that can help to explain why wood displays are trending:
1) Wood Prices Have Declined- Over the last 15 years, wood prices have declined on both a nominal and real basis. This phenomenon is true both for softwoods as well as hardwoods. Softwoods are used extensively in the construction industry for framing and similar uses, while hardwoods are more expensive and generally used for things like furniture and finishing. With nearly 10 years of weakness in residential and commercial construction industry, it’s easy to see why wood prices have declined during this period.
2) Cheap Metal Displays are Out- For many years, cheap metal POP displays and store fixtures out of China were popular in a lot of retail store environments. However, in the last few months steel prices have been trending up and wage inflation in China has negated much of the savings that used to be available with metal displays. Metal displays still clearly play an important role in the retail industry, but their comparative advantage is less than it once was.
3) Trend Toward All Things Natural- Next time you are in your grocery store, take note of the wood displays that have become commonplace. Consumers are increasingly demanding natural, organic, and authentic products. Retailers and brands want POP displays that reflect those attributes. And, this isn’t just about food and beverage. It’s happening across a wide range of industries, and we don’t think it is a fad.
4) Relative Cost Parity with Overseas Production- With metal POP displays, there is still a fairly significant cost advantage to produce overseas compared to the U.S. Metal displays are typically labor intensive, and robotic welding is generally used sparingly and mostly just for longer production runs. With wood, there are 2 factors that come into play: (A) China imports much of its wood from the U.S. and Canada because it just doesn’t have the kind of plentiful forests that we have here in North America, and (2) For many types of wood displays, it is easier to leverage automation than it is for metal POP display production. There is still a sizable labor component, but CNC machines and other automated equipment can help erase the labor cost advantage held by overseas producers.
5) Shorter Lead Times- Because many wood displays are made in the U.S. for the reasons stated above, lead times tend to be shorter. This is a big advantage, particularly given that planning horizons have been getting shorter, and going overseas tends to be more difficult when lead times are squeezed.
So let’s take a look at just a few examples of custom wood displays that have been keeping our designers, engineers, and millwork craftsmen busy.
• Bank Kiosk- Furniture-quality wood fixtures continue to be popular in banks. The fixture below is just one example of a unit we built for U.S. Bank.
• Buddy Fruits- We designed the produce department shelf display shown below as a way to refresh the look of the brand by using a white painted finish instead of a more traditional golden oak stain.
• Pepsi Endcap for Target- We built the endcap shown below for Pepsi to go into Target stores. It’s a relatively simple endcap shelf display made of MDF with a while melamine finish and side graphics. What was cool about this display was its measurable impact: a 35% increase in sales.
• Tate’s Bakeshop- We made the freestanding floor display shown below for Tate’s Bakeshop to go in more than 200 Albertsons stores. This knock-down display was nothing fancy (We did not design it), but it got the job done and the prominent silk screened graphics did a good job of promoting the brand. The only problem we had with this project is that the case of delicious cookies our customer sent us to test the fit mysteriously disappeared from our office (The finger pointing continues).
• White Oak Sunglass Display for REM Eyewear- The small footprint spinning sunglass display shown below was constructed using white oak, a PVC backdrop panel, wire nosepieces, and acrylic mirrors. The display was designed to match the décor of Lucky stores, and despite its simplicity it achieved success as measured by incremental sunglass sales.