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Store Front: Add Life to Shelves

Posted: June 20, 2012, 6:15 p.m. EDT


Going beyond basic store fixtures can inspire innovative displays and entice customers to come in and buy.
By Leila Meyer

When it comes to store fixtures, the possibilities are endless. Even on a tight budget, pet retailers can implement fixtures that complement and enhance their store’s style.

Veronique Michalik, the owner of Lofty Dog in Austin, Texas, has two store locations with very different architecture, but the fixtures at both locations present a unified style while complementing each store’s unique appearance.

Her original location is on the site of the former iconic music venue, Liberty Lunch, and across the street from another big music venue, Austin City Limits. Factoring in the cultural surroundings and the industrial feel of the store space itself, Michalik decided to give her store a rock-and-roll look and feel.

Pet store floor space
Stores with plenty of floor space can incorporate both “basic” shelving and customized units—such as the this displays at Pacific Pets in Hesperia, Calif.—into the overall design for a cohesive look.Photo Courtesy of Chris Miller/Pacific Store Designs
“We have exposed piping and all of that, so we went with simple fixtures with a lot of stainless steel,” she said.

When she opened her second location, the architecture used a lot of wood with lower ceilings and no exposed piping, so she had to shift her approach slightly, while maintaining her pet store’s brand.

“I wanted to keep the funky, rock-and-roll vibe we’re trying to portray, but also take into consideration that all stainless just wasn’t going to fit this store as well, so we tried to blend stainless with a funkier wood fixture,” she added.

Types of Fixtures
While many retailers choose conventional fixtures, others choose from the wide variety of eclectic alternatives, from bookshelves to armoires to trunks to almost anything. For example, Michalik bought some used bakery racks for Lofty Dog.

“I lay pet beds on them,” she reported.

Pet store shelving
Inspirational shelving can take any form, including displays that aren’t shelves at all.Sherri L. Collins/Bowtie Inc. at Safari
Jeannine Giordan, owner of Hazel and Gertie’s in San Francisco, repurposes antiques to create unique fixtures for her cozy neighborhood pet boutique. One of her favorite pieces is a vintage laundry basket.

“I spray-painted it pink, and it’s full of little stuffed toys,” she said.

At Teca Tu, A Paws-Worthy Emporium and Deli in Santa Fe, N.M., co-owner Laurie Wilson incorporates furniture pieces into her southwestern-style pet supply emporium.

“I’m using a really cool pine computer desk for hats and bananas and things like that,” she commented. “It looks really good in here.”

Even with conventional store fixtures, it’s possible to customize them to be uniquely suited to a pet store’s style and brand, said Chris Miller, president of Pacific Store Designs in Garden Grove, Calif.

“We’ve taken basic shelving and dressed it up with trim, crown molding, different colors and finishes, and edge trim,” Miller reported. “You can really dress up a fixture. If you look at before and after pictures of a basic fixture that we’ve dressed up, you wouldn’t recognize it.

“The options are limitless,” he added.

Finding Fixtures
“The trend for the last couple of years has been to buy used,” Miller said. “As far as the hutches and antique-type fixtures to create a boutique, most people don’t buy that kind of stuff from me. They buy it at garage sales, antique stores or Craigslist.”

Industry Voices
What Was Your Best Fixture Find?

“We did some custom built-in shelves with these beautiful little arcs on top, and it’s kind of in the middle of the store, so people see it when they walk in.”
Laura Bednarczyk, co-owner of LuLu & Luigi Pet Boutique and Grooming Pawlours in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area

“The little wooden treat bins that I got from the used fixture store. They display well and work really well for the purpose, and the customers seem to like it.”
Veronique Michalik, owner of Lofty Dog in Austin, Texas

“The Williams-Sonoma pine shelving for the dog food because you go in every other store and it’s always the industrial metal or plastic shelves. It just adds a little bit of class to our food section. It’s inviting.”
Laurie Wilson, co-owner of Teca Tu, A Paws-Worthy Emporium and Deli in Santa Fe, N.M.

“I have an old wheelbarrow from an antique store. It’s blue but it’s kind of rusty and has these cool wheels on it. The whole thing’s metal, the wheels are metal, everything. It won’t function as a wheelbarrow anymore and it’s really small.”
Jeannine Giordan, owner Hazel and Gertie’s in San Francisco
Hazel and Gertie's wheelbarrow "shelf"

Michalik said she scours the used fixture stores.

“Sometimes you get lucky and find some really great stuff, and sometimes you leave disappointed,” she noted. “It’s always a bargain if you can find them because usually they’re gently used and might just need a little tweaking, and sometimes they don’t need anything at all and it saves you a lot of money.”

Wilson capitalized on the closure of a local bookstore.

“The Borders here went out of business, so they had these really nice, big, heavy pine tables for sale,” she said. “I bought four.”

When Laura Bednarczyk, co-owner of three LuLu & Luigi Pet Boutique and Grooming Pawlours in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, couldn’t find the right fixture, she had a custom one built.

“If we can’t find the piece we want, we build around what we purchased, and we just work with local carpenters,” she said.

Hazel and Gertie’s Giordan has also gone the custom route.

“I had some custom wooden shelves built,” Giordan said. “There were two areas that were perfect for it, so I had them custom built and painted them white.”

Display Options
Bednarczyk uses a lot of armoires in her pet boutiques, but found that she has to be careful which products she displays in them.

“When we displayed the bowls there, you couldn’t get a sense of how nice they looked because the ones on the top and middle shelves were just being shadowed,” she said. “Once we moved the bowls out of there, and filled it with blankets, it’s gorgeous.”

But how are pet retailers to know if their products are in the right place?

“It’s all trial and error,” Bednarczyk said. “If you feel like something isn’t moving, you start looking at your display and wondering why and moving things around. It’s amazing what will sell when it’s in the right place.”

Positioning Fixtures
Selecting fixtures and determining which products to display on them are two pieces of the puzzle. The third is figuring out where to position it in the store.

eclectic pet store display
Display options are practically limitless for stores that opt for an antique and/or eclectic look.Photo Courtesy of Hazel and Gertie’s
“You want it to be multi-dimensional, so you don’t want it to all be flat,” Bednarczyk recommended. “You definitely want to add some elements of height.”

That means using lower displays, such as tables, along with taller displays, such as bookcases or armoires.

“We move things around our store quite often, just to keep it fresh and new,” said Bednarczyk. “We have the armoires and tables, and then we’ll dress them up with different baskets or holding bins.”

The front end of the store is really important, reported John Clontz, director of marketing and e-business for Madix, a fixture manufacturing company. As such, mobile displays are popular because pet store owners can easily change how they merchandise product, he added.

“I move things around a lot; I get bored, so I tend to redo things constantly,” Giordan said. “It’s a fun process. That’s the creative part about the store that l love is being able to do that. I can do anything I want inside, so I do.”

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