Understanding the Relative Material Costs of POP Displays
What will it cost? Cost is always a major consideration for brand marketers and retailers when thinking about a permanent point of purchase displays. Whether you are designing it in-house, through an agency, or a custom POP manufacturer, it will save a lot of time and potential disappointment if you have a basic idea of the relative costs of the materials and labor need for a display. With this knowledge you can suggest materials that will help your designers design a retail display that will fit the budget and fulfill the mission.
Let’s take a look at some basic things to consider, like what types of display materials are the least expensive? If the display will likely be produced in some volume and lowest cost is the main issue a good choice is wire. The wire itself is relatively low cost, and the fabrication method is fairly low cost as well. Due to its strength, less material is needed overall to make a fairly durable POP display. But wire may not be right for many types of products. Wire generally offers less surface area for graphics, and therefore wire racks are usually less interesting visually. However, wire POP displays are sometimes the perfect solution and almost always the least costly, whether manufactured domestically or offshore.
Another material option that is more costly than wire but typically requires lower practical manufacturing volume is good old North American soft woods, like pine for example. Pine is very plentiful, and it is available in smaller dimensional sizes, like 3/4″x 3 1/2″. This particular size is generally milled in large volume out of lower quality #2 common pine, which is typically used for crate strapping. It makes a very affordable and sturdy wood display, particularly for customers who desire a plain, unfinished wood look. For a little more money, you can spray, stain, or silk screen graphics on the 3 1/2″ wide boards. These types of retail wood fixtures have been fairly popular lately due to their natural look and lower cost.
Another step up the finish level ladder brings us to particle board or MDF pressed board finished in a LPL (Low Pressure Laminate) or Melamine. This material offers a nice finished look like an HPL (High Pressure Laminate) at a much reduced cost. The look can vary from just about any finished wood look to solid colors and patterns. Recently a wood texture pressed into the surface has become available as well. With this type of material lots of different looks can be achieved. The material most commonly comes in 4’x8′ sheets and is available in multiple thicknesses, so CNC milling of parts is done with ease. This type of material has been among the most commonly used in point-of-purchase displays over the last 20 years or so, as automated CNC milling became more and more of a practical manufacturing solution. While particle board and MDF are a little more costly than the materials mentioned above, they offer manufacturing speed, lower labor cost, and a wide range of finished looks. So what’s the downside? They are fairly easily damaged (edges) and are relatively heavy, causing a higher shipping expense. However, they can be used to create knock-down store displays which can be packed in smaller boxes and easily assembled in the store. In short, particle board and MDF offer a precise, highly finished look for the money.
Next up the line would be high pressure laminates (HPLs) over plywood or pressed boards. These finishes offer more choices in finished surface looks and are very durable. They also offer the ability to hide all fasteners, thereby creating a very finished, sleek look for POP displays and store fixtures. The cost, however, is significantly more than similar looks which can be achieved using melamine. The laminate itself is a separate rigid piece of material, similar to the LPL melamine product in that the finished surface is a resin-impregnated printed paper, but instead of laminating directly to a structural panel, it is pressed under high pressure on to a stiff phonemic carrier panel about a 1/16 of an inch thick. This panel then can be glued to an assembled display or to a chosen structural panel before milling. It makes a very durable, long lasting surface and finished product when fabricated and engineered correctly. However the cost of a retail fixture or store display using this material, together with the required fabrication methods, is roughly twice as much as the cost of a comparable melamine display. But where a specific look and long term durability is required, it can be a very good choice.
From here we go up to acrylic materials and sheet metal. These materials can produce a beautiful and practical display while offering a bit more of a high-tech look. Depending on volume (generally more needed) and where the display is manufactured (generally higher labor needed), acrylic and sheet metal can be the right solution. Knock-down shipping and difficulty of assembly can be issues for these materials, which can add to the cost.
From here we go up in cost to what would be considered “high end” POP displays. These often have welded structures which require powder coating or plated finishes, often incorporating glass or acrylic. Also in this category of cost would be displays utilizing highly finished hardwoods, or very thick clear acrylics and any combination of these materials and graphics.
There are many more material possibilities that fall in the higher and lower cost categories, but this at least provides a basic understanding of some of the relative costs for materials that are more typically used to manufacture point of purchase displays and retail store fixtures.