Custom retail fixtures versus commodity retail fixtures.

By Linda Waterson

One of the basic questions with store fit-outs is whether a retailer should source the fixtures they require or do they need to custom manufacture? This has always been the big debate driven by aesthetics, brand and costs.

Commodity (off the shelf) retail fixtures remain a solid option for many retailers looking for floor fixtures and wall systems. Commodity fixtures are cost effective, have a quick turnaround time into store and are available in basic finishes such as chrome and satin chrome. They also provides the staple and versatile merchandising options of front hang, side hang, double hang and varying heights. We find that most retailers choosing to utilise their walls within store to create links synonymous with their brands, such as wall paper, images and specific textures, have a tendency to keep their floor fixtures relatively simplistic so as not to detract from their product.

However, we have increasingly seen a shift toward customised fixture options.

Retailers are looking to entice the customer with a point of difference, an “in-store experience” that enhances their product whilst maintaining the product’s hero status and showcasing the uniqueness of their brand.

Custom fixtures can build on the brand experience and enhance the product by through delivering an air of exclusivity. These fixtures can include the ability to produce distinctive shapes and sizes coupled with a use of unique textures and feel. Storage options at the base of the fixtures and walls are also seen as a large factor with retailers minimising their back-of-house space to increase their selling space. 

The finishing of the units themselves plays a sizeable part in defining the identity of the brand and what aesthetically the retailer and nominated designer are aiming to achieve. 

Some of the current trend to finishes include blackened steel, raw steel, steel tubes and other substrates that are wrapped in leather and fabrics, stone, corion, glass, polished stainless steel, compressed bamboo, ply and many more. The array of possible finishes is endless with retailers choosing a culmination of many. 

One thing that is most apparent is that trends have returned to the earthy elements and finishes whilst utilising a splash of colour to represent brand and product. We have seen a cyclical resurgence in paint and laminate colours with retailers moving toward natural timber such as beech and oaks, and laminate/paint colours such as the black and white that we saw early to mid-2000s.

To determine the design brief and the layout, it appears that retail currently moves in either of the two following ways. One, embracing their brand and product heritage by returning to classic styles and finishes or two, forging ahead as a future pioneer creating new designs that encompass modern finishes. Either way, neither of these are a right or wrong choice, all is determined by customer and product.

In conclusion, by looking at the diversification of retail brands across the country it is apparent that both commodity and custom fixtures options have a place in the market. We have increasingly seen a great emergence of the two to allow retailers to expand their businesses and manage the capital expenditure whilst achieving their own unique proposition as they aim to highlight their product and captivate their end user.

* Linda Waterson work for Kreuger Shop fittings, one of Australia’s leading shop fitting specialists.