What roles will store displays play in retail’s new normal?

Discussion
Photo: RetailWire
Jul 08, 2020
Dave Wendland

Consumers who have returned to recently reopened stores and those that will do so in the future will walk into substantially different retail environments than they were used to before the novel coronavirus pandemic upended everyday life and business in the U.S.

Chain stores such as American Eagle Outfitters, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Target, Walmart and many others have taken steps including requiring employees and customers, at least in some cases, to wear face masks. They have increased sanitation regimens and begun controlling shopping cart usage by handing out newly cleaned ones to customers entering stores. They have erected Plexiglass dividers, closed or reconfigured fitting rooms, expanded online order fulfillment from stores, promoted curbside pickup and increased customer communications through mobile apps and texting.

The approach that retailers have taken relative to secondary displays and merchandisers has also changed in light of new realities, most notably the need to provide customers and associates with space to social distance. An article in the May/June issue of Creative Magazine cites a number of examples of display solutions: stands to communicate important information, hand sanitizer stations, floor graphics and a wide variety of other merchandising vehicles in both traditional and digital configurations.

While space is a critical element of the new retailing reality, it’s important for stores not to overlook the value that endcaps, in-line merchandisers and secondary displays play in driving sales. The overall lift index for displays in mass merchants is 1.4, according to a 2014 POPAI study. That means a product’s sales increase 1.4 times when a display is present.

Displays are critical for retailers seeking to drive impulse and add-on purchases. This is particularly true for retailers that are looking to quickly move merchandise that went unsold as stores were forced to close. Moving inventory out will be key to aligning it to demand going forward.

Although the specific timeline for a return to some degree of normalcy is uncertain, I believe that fewer displays will be seen this coming holiday season. With that said, it is likely that by the first quarter of 2021, promotional displays, curated destination centers and new arrivals will be in full view. That suggests that planning must begin now.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What roles do you see in-store displays currently playing in light of social distancing requirements and other retailing realities around COVID-19? Will it be a return to past practices when restrictions in stores begin to ease or do you see a potential for displays (traditional and digital) to fill new roles?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"The one thing retailers should do – which some have and many have not – is remove fixtures in the middle of aisles which create pinch points for consumers."
"As we move forward we will continue to see health and safety measures in full effect, but when it comes to store layout and display it’s back to the future."
"As most retailers’ in-store traffic is down 20-50 percent, and will likely be down at least 20 percent for the next 18 months, in-store displays will simply work less hard..."

Join the Discussion!

23 Comments on "What roles will store displays play in retail’s new normal?"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

The one thing retailers should do – which some have and many have not – is remove fixtures in the middle of aisles which create pinch points for consumers. I realize these are great for selling but they are annoying at the best of times, and not really suitable for social distancing. This must be part of a wider effort to reduce clutter in stores which is ultimately a good thing: attractive displays and stores should not be crowded with stock. Less is often more.

Dave Wendland
BrainTrust

Reducing clutter also means rationalizing SKUs (again). Here’s a good example of these efforts: https://www.supplychaindive.com/news/coronavirus-supply-chains-SKUs-pandemic-Mondelez-Procter-Gamble-Coca-Cola/579017/

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

I love a good table display that’s loaded with irresistible cross-merchandised product! Maybe that’s the visual merchandiser in me or maybe it’s because like so many consumers I love a treasure hunt experience. I agree that in some stores less is more, but in others — not so much.

Dick Seesel
BrainTrust

The science of COVID-19 suggests that surfaces are less concerning than viral transmission through the air. So stores may not see an immediate need to remove fixtures from their selling floors, but overcrowded conditions make social distancing difficult.

On a variety of recent shopping trips (Kroger, Kohl’s, Costco, Marshall’s and a few others) I see very little evidence that stores have created more spacing between fixtures. Retailers need to do a better job, and it might also help their inventory management in light of uncertain demand.

Dave Wendland
BrainTrust

You’re right, Dick. Among the many challenges facing retailers (and CPG brands) are patchwork regulations – often down to a municipality – regarding the “rules” and “regulations” for reopening retail. As a result, we are also seeing a wide array of the good, the bad, and the ugly.

David Weinand
BrainTrust

Good point Dave. No national response in terms of regulations and guidelines leaves retailers to navigate what seems to be the Wild West (had to do it — since you teed up the good, the bad and the ugly…)

Dave Wendland
BrainTrust

Not only are our names similarly spelled, it seems our senses of humor are aligned. Thanks for the corroboration on guideline challenges, market hysteria/overreaction, and retail responses/challenges.

Michael La Kier
BrainTrust

While displays have changed in terms of items promoted during the pandemic, things will return to “normal” sooner rather than later as displays play a critical role for retailers and brands to promote their products and a critical role in the’ bottom line of retailers.

Dave Wendland
BrainTrust

I believe you are right, Michael. Conversations that I am having with retailers, brands, and fixture companies is that efforts are already underway to bring “new approaches” to the aisles by year’s end. Not only is this good for a retailer’s bottom line, but I also feel it is expected and anticipated by consumers.

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

We continually have told retailers that when customers re-start their in-store journeys, the store must not look like the same store they left. Merchandise presentations must create excitement, desire and product “lift.” Music is essential along with great service. The importance of projecting safety is on the top of the lists well. When Disneyland opens, the castle will thrill, the music will ease tensions, and everything will shout that you are in Disneyland. Now that’s a store!

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust
Rich and I are presenting a virtual store tour tomorrow at the Retail Transformation Live virtual event, so in addition to our normal scouting of what’s happening in-store, we’ve been in hyperdrive. It’s interesting to note that even with all the talk about how the retail sales floor will evolve there really has not been a lot of change. Grocery stores are still loading up merchandise outposts and strike zones. End features are still prominent as are stocked in-line displays. In some retailers we are seeing power aisles emptied of merchandise and fixtures, but in many cases this is because the stores just don’t have enough merchandise to stock the rest of the store so these aisles are masquerading as being open for safety. Michaels and Target are still working their power aisles as normal. As we move forward we will continue to see health and safety measures in full effect, but when it comes to store layout and display it’s back to the future. Most stores do not look markedly different than they did… Read more »
Dave Wendland
BrainTrust

Would love to see your vision for Retail Transformation. Please keep me in the loop, Georganne.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

Here’s the link — we’re on at 1:00 pm EST. Steve Dennis is doing a Fireside Chat on The Fear Of Failure at 2:00 pm EST.

Dave Bruno
BrainTrust

In the near-term, I suspect we will see a varied approach to displays. Certainly retailers in all categories need to find ways to increase impulse spending. Safety concerns, lower store traffic, and curbside fulfillment have all devastated impulse-driven revenues. Retailers will get creative within the confines of current store designs, to be sure. However what we really need is a revolutionary change to store design and visual merchandising that both reflects and adapts to the new normal. I suspect soon I will be wishing Aptos had a planogramming solution to offer!

Jason Goldberg
BrainTrust

As most retailers’ in-store traffic is down 20-50 percent, and will likely be down at least 20 percent for the next 18 months, in-store displays will simply work less hard than they used to.

Now that retailers are having to live with artificial caps on their maximum capacities, the whole strategy around the in-store experience has changed. We used to want to maximize traffic and dwell time. Now we want to maximize conversion and basket size, while minimizing visit time.

This means in-store displays have to strike a tricky new balance. Increasing basket size means we want displays to drive unplanned purchases, but minimizing visit time means that we don’t want experiential displays that increase dwell time.

In practice, given the new in-store traffic realities, most retailers are simplifying the shopping experience. Fewer SKUs, less discovery, more efficiency.

Lauren Goldberg
BrainTrust

Displays should provide solutions to consumers, be it a new face mask fixture/display I saw in my local Target this week, ways to clean your home or activities for kids to do at home. From what I’ve seen, consumers do not want to spend extra time in a store, so displays are even more important for retailers to get impulse and incremental purchases from the consumers who are walking in the door.

Dave Wendland
BrainTrust

Absolutely right! Curated solutions should be the focus. We’ve committed to Product-Assortment-as-a-Service™ to help retailers “curate” destinations. I believe this is directionally where retail displays must head.

Cynthia Holcomb
BrainTrust

Effecting change in large organizations is cumbersome, time-consuming and most of the time stuck in groupthink aka incremental innovation. These days there are so many moving parts between employees, corporate, COVID-19 the disease, vendors, customers, and on and on. Change — real physical change — to in-store displays designed to promote customer safety barriers between humans and COVID-19 might not be implemented prior to the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Andrew Blatherwick
BrainTrust
The merchandising of a store has always been of prime importance in maximizing sales in-store, whether that be of items needing clearing or to drive traffic. What is often missed is the need to also be local and feature what is in demand in the local area and not just national plans. Most retailers still use national plans for their stores and leave it to the store staff to adjust for their assortment. With modern technology this is firstly not necessary but also leaves this vitally important aspect of your operation to chance. Store specific plans based on store specific forecasts are now possible. They can then be linked to the supply chain and inventory management plans to ensure that good availability and supply chains that are optimized at all times. When items are displayed off-shelf they do create a buzz and increase sales. These displays need to be managed to build stock beforehand and then the stock wound down towards the end so that you do not get left with too much stock when… Read more »
jesse@metroclick.com
Guest

Displays can be proactive in helping during the pandemic and reset beyond communicating with customers and staff. Add-ons for kiosks now include everything from hand sanitizer dispensers to thermal sensing, all designed to keep people safe and to reassure them that landlords, retailers, restaurants, etc., have planned for all potential situations.

Debra
Guest

In the last few years many retail displays were designed to be interactive. Now consumers are very concerned about touching anything. Motion activated displays are fine, but this also drives up the cost to manufacturer them, and most retailers aren’t currently willing to invest in them.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

Although a ton of things have changed and may linger for a long time to come because of COVID-19, I believe displays will stay forever … even in their traditional format. Impulse sells.

Paco Underhill
BrainTrust

Almost every big box merchant is looking to downsize. Supply chain management has improved — a store can have the same SKUs and shrink 20+%. The VM conversation is about stores taking more control over PoP and packaging. The idea that everything has to scream from the shelf is so 20th Century, especially in aging markets where for 40+ year olds, 80% of weekly purchases are the same thing. We also know that the union of product, package, shelf and aisle — much less store — is ripe for reinvention a PostPan world where digital literacy has been challenged. Yes Alice, the PoP/Display world is going to change.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"The one thing retailers should do – which some have and many have not – is remove fixtures in the middle of aisles which create pinch points for consumers."
"As we move forward we will continue to see health and safety measures in full effect, but when it comes to store layout and display it’s back to the future."
"As most retailers’ in-store traffic is down 20-50 percent, and will likely be down at least 20 percent for the next 18 months, in-store displays will simply work less hard..."

Take Our Instant Poll

How long after customer count restrictions loosen will it be before retailers expand the number of displays in stores to what they were before closures took place?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...