The truth about POP displays

Do the words 'some assembly required' give you anxiety? Have you ever found yourself fumbling through instructions that seem to require an engineering degree to decipher?
April 1, 2007

Do the words ‘some assembly required’ give you anxiety? Have you ever found yourself fumbling through instructions that seem to require an engineering degree to decipher?

Toy manufacturers take note: Anecdotal evidence suggests that stylish and expensive POP displays often go unused if store owners – or more likely stock clerks – can’t figure out how to assemble them.

‘A lot of companies are wasting their money on POP displays. They are often so poorly designed or difficult to understand that I don’t even try to put the things together,’ says Rick Grossman, who owns and operates a Learning Express franchise in Hillsborough, New Jersey. With 2,700 square feet of toy-selling real estate, Grossman’s shop usually houses three or four displays, but any more than that and the space starts to look cluttered.

At KB Toys, POP displays are greenlit at the corporate level by a visual marketing department. Director of advertising and sales promotion Geoffrey Webb says the display prototypes are scrutinized to determine how easily they can be assembled, as well as how they will hold up to, say, being side-swiped by a stroller.

Even more important than easy assembly is how a particular display will benefit the store’s sales, and retailers say most marketers don’t give this consideration enough weight. ‘I want to feature the item that’s giving me the most profit. That’s what’s going to make me display your merchandise instead of someone else’s,’ says Grossman.

Or to put it more bluntly, ‘Retailers don’t care about making you money,’ says Rod Hoffman, owner of design firm The Big Eye Studio in Ramona, Oklahoma. With more than 20 years experience designing product and packaging for the toy industry, Hoffman says manufacturers are better off putting resources into making sure their products stand, stack or hang. Because if a retailer isn’t interested in their stand-alone display, they’ll have to eat the price of it. A display that occupies 5% of floor space, only half of which actually houses product, is eating up precious real estate which could be used for product that’s selling through briskly, explains Hoffman. ‘It’s hard enough to get into retail – you don’t want to create problems once you’re there,’ he adds.

Hoffman says shelves are still the prime location in toy stores, so designing endcaps is a great promotional strategy. And switching to the new hanging clam blister packaging allows the retailer to pack more SKUs in a square foot.

In-store videos are a new trend that take up little retail space and have the potential to really promote and move inventory. Hoffman recently helped a manufacturer make a DVD for a toy gun game that runs on in-store monitors. The 30-second spot cost approximately US$50,000 to produce, but Hoffman points out that this expense is still cheaper than a flock of POP displays that may just get tossed.

The outlook on POP displays isn’t entirely bleak, though. Webb at KB Toys says the displays are often set up to coincide with a special sale or gift-with-purchase promo. And Grossman’s Learning Express store has at least one display that he says is so attractive it lasted a year on the floor, which is a lot longer than the typical two-month lifespan of POP stands.

POP displays also have a lot of merit in non-traditional channels that don’t usually sell toys. The toy gun game that Hoffman worked on sold well in sporting goods stores, thanks in part to a free-standing display that showcased the product for a month next to the in-store video monitor. And he also created a refillable wooden display for the toyco’s old-style cap guns that sell in specialty shops.

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