Infrastructure-Shelf Design

February 16, 2011
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To customers, shopping in a grocery store is a bit like driving down a highway with the world’s smallest billboards; everywhere they look, displays scream for attention. Retailers work to display products in ways that will grab a shopper’s attention and entice them into choosing and buying those products.


To customers, shopping in a grocery store is a bit like driving down a highway with the world’s smallest billboards; everywhere they look, displays scream for attention. Retailers work to display products in ways that will grab a shopper’s attention and entice them into choosing and buying those products.
In flush economic times, these displays could be fairly straightforward: a store owner could stack products neatly on store shelves, slap a sign above them and customers would do the rest.
 
But to convince today’s price-conscious shoppers to pry open their wallets, smart retailers need to sweat the small stuff when displaying products, especially private label items that compete head-to-head with national brands.
How small is the small stuff? When is the last time you pondered the impact of your shelf labels? That’s how small.
 
Shelf tags often are overlooked in the supermarket design world but that’s something you can no longer afford to do.
“The average supermarket contains roughly a half-mile of shelving.
 
The shelf has transitioned from just a place to put a product and price into a robust marketing tool, ” says Jeff Weidauer, vice president of marketing and strategy at Vestcom, a shelf-edge communication company based in Little Rock, Ark.
The shelf label is where a private label customer focuses to calculate potential savings and to gain valuable information – if it’s provided – about the company.
The typical shelf is almost unnoticeable. Blending in perfectly with the rest of the aisle, it might sport a white sign with some basic information listed in black type. It does its job.
 
New Ideas
The recession has created a unique opportunity for the private label world to make a name for itself alongside more well-known national brands in the shelving and signage arena, says Mike Kowalczyk, vice president and general manager of the Livonia, Mich.-based media and marketing company Valassis.
Companies like Dallas, Texas-based snack maker Frito-Lay or Jacksonville, Fla.-based grocer Winn-Dixie both have been pushing the envelope in the world of supermarket shelving, says Kowalczyk.
 
“Frito-Lay especially has been moving away from the cut and paste planograms and moving toward a more company oriented design.”
When Frito-Lay moved from planograms [visual diagrams of a store that provide detailed descriptions of every product and where it should be placed] developed for store clusters to store-specific planograms, it improved its retail sales growth by 2 to 4 percentage points, according to Logistics Viewpoints blogger Steve Banker.
 
 What Frito-Lay found was that its product assortment, based on the planogram, might be fine from Monday through Thursday, but a store-level planogram really drove growth in peak selling times, Friday through Sunday.
A store cluster-specific planogram is driven by the buying characteristics of various demographic groups in a given geographical area.
 
Store-level planograms are far more store specific, using point-of-sale information, store manager input, store size, corporate merchandising philosophy and the placement of products and categories within the store. Moving to store-specific planograms can increase sales.
 
This forward plan for increased demand needs to be integrated into the supply chain planning and replenishment processes, says Banker.
Although Kowalczyk considers innovations like Frito-Lays’ shelf design trend setting in the industry, he predicts other companies taking the lead in innovation in the next year.
“Retailers have been restricted until recently but it seems like the industry is starting to correct itself. Signage will get a lot more attention now that the recession is starting to fade.
 
In the past, marketing support could not focus on any one brand, but with the potential of money coming in, private labels can start work on individual brand signage,” says Kowalczyk.
 
By year’s end, he foresees private label innovative and creative signage to as much as double or triple from present levels.
 
But retailers need to make sure that innovation is cost-effective and will spell long-term benefits, experts note.
Some innovations, despite their creativity, serve as cautionary tales to retailers.
 
Some types of electronic shelf labeling are an example of such innovation. Electronic shelf labeling or ESLs uses liquid crystal displays (LCDs), though some newer models use electronic ink displays.
 
First introduced in the late ‘80s, cost prevented them from becoming a widespread alternative to paper and vinyl price labels until 1995, according to the executive white paper Electronic Shelf Labeling produced by Vestcom.
“The biggest problem with electronic shelf labeling is the execution and compliance of making it work with everybody’s dollars being so stretched right now,” says Greg Gates, vice president of image marketing solutions at Gladson, a Lisle, Ill.-based company that creates consumer packaged goods product images and information.
 “The retailer must make sure they are maximizing the return on their investments. ESLs require a back office system that needs to be hooked up from store to store, which can be quite expensive,” says Gates.
 
He recommends image shelf strips as a more economical alternative. Image shelf strips integrate words and pictures of the product onto the shelving strip.
 
A large strip can contain not only a picture but weight, unit price, price comparison and company name.
 
Among the ways smart store owners tweak private label signage are color, font style and size, emphasis on price per unit and the location of the signage.
At the same time, retailers need to avoid flooding the consumers with too much information.
 
Reducing the number of products on the shelves can help companies increase sales by as much as 40 percent while cutting costs by between 10 and 35 percent, according to a 2007 study by Bain & Co, the Boston-based consulting group.
 
Looking Ahead
“Because supermarkets change their promotions each week, it’s important that the graphic holders be really easy to use,” says Melissa Santos, director of marketing at the Salem, Mass.-based Rose Displays, Ltd. The company designs and develops signware for retailers in the food industry.
 
 “Our customers tell us that functionality includes both the engineering of the graphic holder – if it’s designed to snap open, it has to do it quickly and easily, without fuss – and the intuitiveness of the design.
 
Good design and engineering make it easy for store personnel to accomplish change-outs in seconds so time can be spent on other parts of their jobs.”
Looking ahead, private label signage and shelving will incorporate more cost-effective technology. There are exciting innovations on the horizon.
 
“The industry is waiting to explode when it comes to innovation,” says Kowalczyk. “Sound and motion marketing that was in the prototype stages 10 years ago will be mainstream in the next five years,” he predicts. But to echo Gates, the innovation must be cost- effective in order to cater to private label shoppers.
Private label retailers need to embrace the new signage technology and innovation. “Most shoppers learn about new products at the shelf edge; more than any other medium,” says Weidauer.   PLB

 

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