Beth Feinstein-Bartl is a seasoned freelance
writer and journalist. She has covered issues
ranging from manufacturing processes to
design for A.R.E.
The Limited was famous for having 25 outfits merchandised
throughout the store, and shoppers took notice. Customers would
shop for entire outfits. They’d happily find exactly what they were
looking for and be inspired to purchase more.
There, I learned that great retailers make the experience special
for their customers. This is even truer today. Shoppers seek engage
ment. They want to feel special. In the last few years, many retail
ers have lost the visual merchandising touch and believe it’s not as
important as it once was. It’s a lost art. Companies who are story
telling in unique and inspirational ways hit the mark and are mem
orable for customers.
Wood and natural veneers were dominant prior to World War II.
But the development of technological advances in materials
opened the door to a wide range of options. Once eschewed
by many retailers, synthetic materials have become a top choice.
FETZER: Currently, there’s much less wood and more metal,
stone, glass and engineered materials like solid surfacing, plastics,
FEKETE: Many materials are being used other than wood.
There’s more glass, metal, acrylics, etc.
KAUFMAN: Before World War II, wood and natural veneers
dominated much of the industry. During World War II, synthetic
glues developed, replacing animal glues. That was a very important
change. There was a time when department stores would not use
synthetics because they were concerned about image.
ERNEST: Forty years ago, a retailer wouldn’t consider using
synthetic marble. Today, it’s everywhere, even checkout counters.
Technology is enabling betterlooking materials at a lower price.
But retailers are also more conscientious about getting longer life
out of materials. And they like to be associated with renewable and
FETZER: The greatest change is hightech materials. There are
RETAIL ENVIRONMENTS SUPPLIERS
all sorts of creative engineered surfaces in floors, walls, wood,
glass, metals, ceramics, plastics, and even concrete. And almost all
surfaces and patterns can now be duplicated with a printer on what
ever material you can lay on a table.
The companies that supply fixtures and interior materials have
undergone changes of their own over the years. Globalization
and pressure to become one-stop shops have affected the
FEKETE: Companies have become more specialized. It’s enticing
to want to bring different expertise under one roof (i.e. metal, glass,
lights) because you have greater control over all aspects of the fix
tures. But in the end, it’s more costeffective to outsource to experts
who keep pricing down and are more efficient in their respective
ERNEST: Traditionally, there was just a wood vendor or a metal
supplier. Those lines are now blurred. Retailers didn’t want 75 ven
dors anymore, so they started pushing suppliers to provide more.
It stretches everyone’s expertise kind of thin.
KAUFMAN: Metal producers were not as large as wood pro
ducers. That is reversed now.
ERNEST: The biggest transition I’ve seen was when store fixtures
came from China, starting in the 1980s with just hardware from
Taiwan and expanding in 2000 into graphics, fixtures, and even
prepackaged merchandise packs.
It revolutionized the industry. It took manufacturing away from
the U. S. and opened the world to people who were just importers,
and manufacturers had to consider their options. Crown was a
100% manufacturer. By the late 1980s, we had to import or go out
continued from page 24
In the 1960s, freestanding floor displays
were the cat’s meow.
Frank Mayer &
some of its finest
work of the era
in its lobby in 1967.