Retail display manufacturers are a dime a dozen. The industry is highly fragmented, and the barriers to entry in the industry are low. It’s not hard to do a Google search and find a long list of companies that make POP displays. But, the real question is how do you find the right display fixture manufacturer that will meet your retail display needs and offer you the most value?
Should you pick from among the largest companies listed on the Top 50 display fixture manufacturers or POP companies? Should you gamble and go with the POP company from China that had the big booth at Globalshop? How about the company that lists numerous POPAI design awards on its website?
While those questions and options are certainly worthy of consideration, we came up with a list of 5 key criteria that can help you choose the right retail display fixture manufacturer.
1) Design Capabilities – At its core, the POP industry is about design. Design is the thing that ultimately will make your product stand out from your competitors. Design is what can capture human imagination and create shopper engagement. Design can build your brand and drive sales. If you have a great product and a poorly designed POP display, it’s a bit like having a bad haircut.
In evaluating retail display manufacturers, make sure you find out if they have an in-house design team. Ask about the tenure and experience of their designers. Review their portfolio. Don’t get too hung up on the design awards since a lot of companies don’t bother submitting their work for award consideration or they have signed a non-disclosure agreement that prevents them from sharing their work.
2) Experience/Track Record – Selecting a partner that has a proven track record of successfully designing and delivering retail POP displays is obvious but important. Pick a company that has been around the block and has weathered the storms of the retail industry. Designing and manufacturing POP displays is an execution-based business. There are a lot of opportunities to make mistakes. Chances are a company that has been around for a while has made its share of mistakes and probably has learned from them.
Don’t be impressed by a list of big consumer brands listed on a company’s website. Work for those brands may have been done outside of the U.S. where the quality and expectations may be lower. Make sure the company you are considering has experience that aligns with the POP work you need to get done. If you are doing a national rollout for a major U.S. retailer, for example, it’s very helpful to have experience executing those kinds of programs.
3) In-House Manufacturing – We list this as one of our top 5 selection criteria for a number of reasons. First, if a POP company has both in-house design and in-house manufacturing, there is likely to be a tight coupling between those two functions. They are more likely to design something they can actually produce, and the process is likely to be more efficient. Second, companies that own their means of production tend to have greater control over quality and timing than companies who outsource manufacturing. Third, you’ll probably pay less since the mark-up charged by outsourced suppliers can be eliminated.
You won’t find a company that is so vertically integrated that it doesn’t have to outsource something, but if you can find a POP company that at least has a core set of in-house manufacturing capabilities, it is a big advantage from a partnering perspective.
4) Responsiveness/Nimbleness – In your search for retail display manufacturers, you might find a company that has all of the capabilities and experience, but they are not responsive. You are not a priority for them. They have other clients that are more important. You can get a pretty good idea of how responsive a company is likely to be at the early stages of the sales process. Do they return calls and emails promptly? Are quote requests addressed in a reasonable amount of time? If a company is not responsive to your needs, it will likely be a frustrating experience, particularly if there are some bumps in the road during the process.
Another important related consideration is your assessment of the nimbleness of the company. This might not have made our list 5 years ago, but in today’s on-demand retail environment, finding a partner who can turn on a dime is critical.
5) Price Competitiveness – This is another obvious one, but it continues to be a key component of the overall value equation that retail display manufactures offer. It doesn’t always make sense just to go with the lowest cost supplier since there are a variety of other considerations, including the factors mentioned above. However, in a world of tight budgets and reduced resources, finding a partner that offers great pricing can help you stretch your dollar further. If you are sending your POP project out for multiple bids, make sure your specifications are well defined so you can make an apples-to-apples comparison of the price quotes you get back.
Jim Hollen is the owner and President of RICH LTD. (www.richltd.com), a 35+ year-old California-based point-of-purchase display, retail store fixture, and merchandising solutions firm which has been named among the Top 50 U.S. POP display companies for 9 consecutive years. A former management consultant with McKinsey & Co. and graduate of Stanford Business School, Jim Hollen has served more than 3000 brands and retailers over more than 20 years and has authored nearly 500 blogs and e-Books on a wide range of topics related to POP displays, store fixtures, and retail merchandising.
Jim has been to China more than 50 times and has worked directly with more than 30 factories in Asia across a broad range of material categories, including metal, wood, acrylic, injection molded and vacuum formed plastic, corrugated, glass, LED lighting, digital media player, and more. Jim Hollen also oversees RICH LTD.’s domestic manufacturing operation and has experience manufacturing, sourcing, and importing from numerous Asian countries as well as Vietnam and Mexico.
His experience working with brands and retailers spans more than 25 industries such as food and beverage, apparel, consumer electronics, cosmetics/beauty, sporting goods, automotive, pet, gifts and souvenirs, toys, wine and spirits, home improvement, jewelry, eyewear, footwear, consumer products, mass market retail, specialty retail, convenience stores, and numerous other product/retailer categories.