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Retail Shelving Trends: LED Display Cases — And Record Bins

By Mike Wilkening, ARC Communications Manager

Forty years ago, the VHS business was booming, and video stores were popping up everywhere.

Those stores, of course, needed something to display all those bulky plastic video cassette tapes and their cases, and that’s where Marshall Weinstein and Malcolm Finke saw an opening. In 1984, they founded Specialty Store Services in a Chicago garage. They had a small flier, 2-4 pages, and ordered came in over the phone and were taken by hand. Their bread-and-butter was molded extruded plastic shelving, perfect for VHS tapes.

“I remember the shelving manufacturer right next door for our warehouse where we distribute from,” said Eric Weinstein, Marshall’s son. “You could just go into that place and watch these plastic shells be shrouded. You could smell that stuff.”

Eventually, the video stores would go away, but Specialty Store Services is still here, and the partners’ sons — Eric Weinstein and Evan Finke — now run the retail fixture, display case, store fixture and retail supply business for major retailer and manufacturer clients as well as the independent stores that helped their fathers get their start.

The Space Planning Community recently caught up with Eric Weinstein to get his thoughts on retail display and shelving trends he’s noticed. The Q&A was edited lightly for brevity and clarity.

Tell us about your business and your customers. What’s selling well right now?

There’s two parts to the business. We have a catalog which is off the shelf, ready-made display products. And then we have another company called S-CUBE, which is our custom-fit division, where we sell directly to the major chain retailers.

For the catalog business specialty store, the biggest seller right now is gondola shelving, the stuff that you see in grocery stores, convenience stores, etc. Another segment of that is display cases, glass display cases that are lighted for either tobacco — selling smoking products, like pipes, etc. — or gift stores. But another one also would be the point of purchase merchandising displays to sell, bread, books, whatever you name it. They’re easy to ship. Brands use those.

Is lighted shelving a growing trend?

Yes. I mean, probably looking back 10 years ago, nobody wanted lighted shelving and now everybody wants it. I was in [a major grocer] the other day in the candy section, [and] they light shelves for candy.

What else is trending?

Mixed material items, things that are like point of purchase rack that’s metal and wicker. There’s one we sell that’s plastic wicker, but it also has natural fiber. I’ve seen that a lot of times in convenience stores selling fruits or gift items.

Another item would be metal peg spinners to sell all sorts of magnets, gift materials, key chains. The gift market is huge.

Another huge growth for us has been LP displays. Vinyl has made a big comeback.

You mean displays for vinyl records? Did you make those back in the 1980s? How did you meet that need?

We’ve got several different models of it now, but the original one was a DVD display that we converted, You could use it to display anything. But I put a bunch of LPs on there and said, ‘Hey, we got an LP display here, let’s sell it.’ And it took off. So then we decided to sell ones that are specifically for LPs. They’re kind of bins, browsing bins.

From a custom standpoint, what’s hot at the moment?

A lot of it has been growth with a store within a store display, [where] a brand or a store has a small kiosk or space within another store. You’ve seen that within, for example, Macy’s having a Finish Line department, or Claire’s within Walmart,

How do you work with brands and retailers on custom shelving, and how are space planners involved?

A lot of times how we get our customers is someone is looking for a specific item, be it a hat rack or a display case, and they might buy the ready-made item, stock item, and then we convert them.  We find out more about them, what their needs are, and then they can use a ready-made product.

But a lot of times [customer] requirements are different. They need something to be on brand and follow certain guidelines, and that’s where the custom aspect comes into play.

We have sales executives here who work hand in hand with space planners and merchandising people to help them. They come to us with their ideas and their designs and we help them execute them and get them delivered to their stores. By doing that, we help them either by changing the designs to make them more efficiently packed, or changing materials or making them better, but ultimately delivering a product for them to make sure that they’re successful, that they get the product delivered on time and to the stores.


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About the Author: Mike Wilkening, Communications Manager, for the Association of Retail and Consumer Professionals (ARC).

Mike brings more than two decades of communications experience to the CMA/SIMA. He began his career in journalism, spending more than 10 years covering the National Football League for Pro Football Weekly and NBC’s Pro Football Talk. His bylines have also appeared in CBS MarketWatch, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, NBC New York, and ESPN.com. More recently, he has pivoted to corporate communications, including strategy and messaging experience for a Fortune 500 company. Mike holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Illinois.

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