Top Questions Your Retail Display Manufacturer Will Ask

8 minutes
Cheryl Lesniak

Top Questions Your Retail Display Manufacturer Will Ask

8 minutes
Cheryl Lesniak

The initial task of creating an effective store display can seem daunting, especially if it’s a brand’s first time exploring retail display design.

What should a brand know before contacting a custom display manufacturer, and what kind of questions will the manufacturer ask?

We sat down with Frank Mayer retail display experts who specialize in different areas and stages of production to find out what essential information brands should know before diving head-first into the world of store displays.

Here are some common questions a retail display manufacturer will ask when starting a program.

What are your desired quantities and budget?

While this question is straightforward, sometimes the answer can be complicated to nail down.

When a brand first reaches out, often they’re still in the exploratory phase and don’t have a budget or quantities finalized.

Director of Strategic Initiatives Dave Loyda shares, “Frequently, I hear first from someone doing research into displays. The person might not be the ultimate decision-maker or have a budget in mind but is looking for guidance on the initial process.”

He goes on. “This is when we tend to have discussions on the brand’s display needs – will it be a permanent display? Freestanding? Counter? Does it need to merchandise a certain number of SKUs? All these questions influence pricing and can help establish a baseline for costs.”

Once a project moves further in the design process, it’s helpful for brands to be clearer on quantity needs and budget.

“We create custom displays, so our designers can render just about anything,” Loyda says. “That being said, knowing a budget helps ensure we design with those costs in mind and present something that fits a client’s budget.”

A custom display manufacturer will walk through the cost savings of ordering in bulk, what materials or processes can save money while still offering longevity in the field, and more. Thus, being prepared with an approximate budget and quantity number will ensure the program is efficient from the beginning.

How long will the display have placement in the field?

What the manufacturer is really asking here is if the display in question is intended to be temporary, semi-temporary, or permanent.

But what’s the difference between these types of displays?

“The lifespan of a retail display really comes down to how long the retailer has dedicated the space on the floor or on the shelf for the brand,” explains David Anzia, Senior Vice President of Sales.

Temporary displays are in the field between one and three months. Because placement is brief, these displays are typically made of corrugated cardboard or thin plastic – materials that have a lower price point but are more susceptible to wear in a short period.

Displays that are out longer than three months but less than a year fall under the category of semi-permanent. These displays are usually built using styrene or a thicker corrugated material with a protective coating.

Finally, permanent displays remain in place for a full year or more. Since these fixtures are out longer and will need to withstand more interaction, heartier materials, such as wood, plastic, and powder-coated metal will be considered for the design.

Having a rough estimate of a fixture’s desired shelf-life is going to be a deciding factor on what kind of materials can be used to create the display.

Where is this display being placed? (And are you considering multiple options for placements?)

Location, location, location. Why is it so important to know early on?

Even with chain stores, there isn’t always a one-size-fits-all display solution because not all locations are going to have exactly the same footprint or capabilities.

Steve Champagne, Vice President of In-Store Merchandising, breaks this concept down further.

“Some of the brands’ retail partners have more space than others do for fixtures,” he says simply. “Some retailers have different volume stores, and they will carry different assortments by location. So, a large fixture may work for some locations, where a smaller counter unit may be the only space or exposure they can get in smaller volume stores.”

More specifically, the manufacturer will want to know where within a location the display is going to be placed, especially if the fixture contains an electronic element.

“In terms of location of the display, it is critical to know where the display will be located in the store, as this will inform where the power will enter the display,” explains Model Maker Josh Govek. “With the display’s final placement in mind, cable management outside of the display can be thought out.”

Retailers are going to set their own standards as well, which can influence the production timeline and materials used for the display.

Do you have specific material requirements?

Perhaps a brand already has a certain desired aesthetic in mind when reaching out to a display manufacturer. Or maybe there’s a specific feature required for the display in question.

This is the time to talk about it.

Apart from making a display visually attractive, specific material may be necessary to create the customer experience that brands want from it.

Knowing how a display needs to be able to function is imperative in deciding on what materials are necessary to make the soundest structure, says Govek.

A key factor in material requirements is going to be if the display has any interactive elements, particularly if those elements require a power source.

“In my experience, if a display is going to have powered elements, we would most likely make that display with metal or wood construction to support the extra weight of those elements.”

He continues, “The more rigid materials give the display the necessary structure to present in a solid and purposeful way, especially if there is any interactivity integrated into the display.”

With recent supply shortages, it’s important to keep in mind that some materials are going to take longer to get than others. This is going to affect the timeline of getting those fixtures out into the field.

Speaking with your retail display manufacturer about these factors before going into production is going to be beneficial to your overall timeline and budget.

Will your display need power?

Safety is always the name of the game, particularly when it comes to adding electronic components to store displays.

Certification from Underwriters Laboratories (UL) is going to be a major player in terms of placing powered displays in-store.

However, it’s not as cut and dry as simply using UL certified parts to create the final product, explains veteran Model Maker Joe Poborsky. Even with certified parts, the powered display itself will need to undergo its own testing to ensure that it meets UL standards as a whole.

And while UL certification is not obligatory when creating all power-operated displays, it may be a prerequisite for certain location placements.

Engineer, Paul Kahre, explains, “Although all our displays are engineered with safety in mind, UL listing may be required by store chains. This normally adds significantly to production lead times and costs.”

“We ask about this early on because it can take a couple weeks,” Poborsky adds. “There’s also a monetary impact. UL could be upwards of $20,000. That’s something you’re not going to want to learn about later on.”

UL certification is a major reason why a retail display manufacturer is going to inquire about the addition of power. Safety is not the only factor at play. Budgets and timelines are also going to be dependent on these certification requirements, so it’s better to know now.

Is this program intended to compete with a competitor’s offering? If so, who?

At first thought, it may seem strange for a retail display producer to ask about an inquiring brand’s competitors. After all, what’s the advantage of knowing what a brand’s competitor is doing in regard to store display design?

“If you have a new product to launch that competes with multiple brands in your industry, the launching brand must know how their competitors are going to market,” explains Champagne.

Within the retail setting, no one brand exists in a vacuum.

“Your brand will be adjacent to the other brands on the selling floor,” Champagne goes on to say. “The fixtures that best ‘attract and engage consumers’ and communicate your products’ features and benefits will go a long way to persuade consumers to purchase your product over the competitors.”

The goal isn’t necessarily to have the flashiest or most expensive display. Rather, the goal is to make the best impression on potential customers and maximize the brand’s return on that fixture.


Starting the journey into the world of display design doesn’t have to be overwhelming.

Knowing the answers to and understanding these basic questions is going to go a long way when contacting a retail display manufacturer for the first time.

Once the answers to these questions are established, a brand is well on its way to creating a distinct and memorable in-store presence.


Are you looking for a reputable display manufacturer? You’re in luck. With more than 90 years in the business, we’ve worked with many well-known companies to design, engineer, and produce effective retail display programs. See a sampling of our work, and then contact us to get started.

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