Pointers on Point of Purchase Displays

Point-of-purchase displays seem ubiquitous throughout all retail categories and are commonplace in hardware stores and home centers around the country. Retailers in all categories incorporate manufacturers' POP displays into their retail mix for a number of reasons, most often to test a new product entry without occupying existing shelf or display space. But a primary consideration in contemplating the use of POPs should be the impact they will have on the store's environment relative to its positioning in the marketplace.

As an enticement for retailers to use POP materials, manufacturers may offer incentives such as reduced product costs and in-store maintenance/stocking of displays to gain permanent product placement once consumer demand is established. But dealers concerned with positioning themselves as the authority in a particular retail segment must consider carefully the distraction POP may have on customer perception.  Conversely, well-chosen displays can help to accentuate authority of the retailer's merchandise mix, which often derives from the relative strength of a supplier's brand name.

Consider, for example, vendor shops such as those created by Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren and Nike; these vendors have carved their brands into some of the best department stores in the nation. In the hardware/home improvement industry, brands such as Koliler, Black & Decker, Georgia-Pacific, Schlage, Scott's and Halo have set a standard for instore POPs that goes beyond merely selling the attributes of their products and moves into providing educational information to the customer. These displays have helped to establish credibility for retailers carrying such product lines and have inspired an evolution of in-store technical displays throughout the industry.

The state of the art in POP displays recently has been elevated by manufacturers with strong brand identification that exceeds the dealers' selling their products. The range of POP displays available includes those complete with video or interactive computers as well as with a variety of information delivery systems, possibly including samples and trial offers to entice shoppers to buy.  A word of caution about technology rarely does one find an in-store video or computer in operational condition for very long after installation. Although the reliability of these systems has vastly improved since inception, they still require monitoring and upkeep. Low-tech solutions such as pamphlets, booklets, samples and order forms work well, as long as the stock is always full. Low-tech methods require far less maintenance and also allow the sales process to continue after the customer leaves the store with a tangible reminder in hand.

It is rare to find home improvement retailers that do not have POP displays in place; the sheer number and complexity of the products their stores sell practically mandate the displays, as does the self-help environment many stores perpetuate. Certain retailers integrate POP displays into their stores more fully than others by coordinating colors, materials, type faces and sizes with the manufacturer. Not all retailers have the power to demand conformance to their interior design specifications, but many POP manufacturers have tools at their disposal, that allow them to make reasonable alterations to standard displays.

Retailers must learn to balance a desire for new product testing and informative point of purchase displays with the need to consistently project the desired positioning to the target customer. POPs can be an especially valuable asset to those retailers positioning stores to the middle- and lower-income customer base. When considering any POP system, regardless of positioning goals and target customer, the most effective integration of the display possible into the retail store environment is of paramount importance.


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