Home and Building, Volume 37 Number 6 (1975)
Now, all this is not new. It has been common practice overseas for years and even here a percentage of business has customarily been done in this way. What is unprecedented, is the extent and volume of business being done.
Since shelving systems are easy to erect, it is often the supplier's salesman who decides how much shelving is desirable and where it should be placed. The shelving itself remains the property of the supplier — a practice in keeping with trends already established overseas.
The importance of effective display storage in today's competitive commercial world is best measured by the number of companies who supply products for this purpose and who offer their expertise to the new shop owners.
One large concern, with a division specialising in this area, offers what it calls 'visual storage' to its patrons. Visual storage is simply the creation of the opportunity for impulse buying, by displaying goods where they can readily be seen and easily handled. The technique can be applied in both retail and wholesale contexts and the company offers to tailor-make systems to suit its clients' needs.
It also claims that where the concept is carried right through, sales will be increased by a minimum of 25%, waste space will be eliminated, old customers will come back more often, new ones will be attracted regularly, stock control will be made much easier, and the company's image will be brightened into the bargain.
In the industrial and major storage fields, mobile shelving systems — in which individual shelf units slide backwards and forwards on rails — are another significant innovation. Up to seven units may be blocked together eliminating the need for access ways between each, and amazing savings of floor space are achieved as a result. Applied correctly, the three companies which produce these systems agree, storage capacity can almost be doubled and gains of floor space of up to 40% are not unrealistic. They may also be locked together for security.
In other applications, new materials like plastic, which may be moulded into shapes, and wood or metal are also making an important contribution. One such line — open-ended polystyrene 'stacker boxes', which are available in a variety of colours and maybe stacked to any desired height — would seem to have an especially bright future.
A number of the companies reviewed say that the pressure to up-grade shelving, comes from the retail sector which not infrequently says to a manufacturer 'If you want me to push your product, give me the means of displaying it'. The result is that old shelving is increasingly being junked and new display equipment is being installed in its place. One shelving manufacturer who is especially close to the market, estimates that manufacturer supplied display equipment takes up approximately 10% of the nations retail shelf space. And the company expects this to increase by about half as much again to 15%. "But beyond that figure," he said, "a store begins to look too higgledy piggledy".
On one point manufacturers who specialise in commercial and industrial shelving are agreed; that it is easier to make and sell commercial and industrial shelving that it is to move into the private home market.
While they each see good potential there, physical distribution is a major problem and the time spent with the home buyer is simply not worth the effort involved. "It just takes too long," said one manufacturer.
As with any other market which lies between utility and taste, the shelving scene can be quirky and erratic. Styles and designs originally created for the home must frequently be proved in offices before they become acceptable. For this reason several companies market wall-fixed shelving storage systems which are designed toappear appropriate in either.
While many companies supply products used for displaying goods in stores, warehouses and boutiques, several firm specialse exclusively in fitting out shops and showrooms from scratch. In addition to their own brand of wall-fixed shelving and over 50 items which range from counters to mirrors and revolving racks, companies offer an advisory service which will move in, produce a layout, and then make up the necessary equipment to suit.