You may not spend a lot of time thinking about the shelves at your local grocery store, but Ed Wohlwender does. The 1990 MBA graduate is president and CEO of POP Displays, the Yonkers, N.Y.-based firm that designs and produces the cases consumers stop at in stores to choose shampoo, cameras and other sundry goods. POP Displays, which employs 650 people, specializes in cosmetics displays, and its clients include the world’s largest retailer, Walmart, and the world’s largest cosmetics company, L’Oreal.
The recession has hit retailers hard, so stores are constantly looking for upgrades in the way products are displayed, while time-pressed consumers are always on the lookout for solutions. Recent innovations include replicas of color-matched nails that allow consumers to “try on” nail color without opening bottles, and idea centers in food displays that highlight recipes and new-product offers.
“New and innovative are the hallmarks of what consumer packaged-goods companies are trying to sell,” Wohlwender says. “Lighting is becoming bigger, and interaction with the product at the store level is really important. Displays are giving shoppers greater information and insight via interactive screens and LEDs.” As an example, in an era when fewer people are baking, a display case for Betty Crocker offers recipes and coupons along with a crisp, flexible design that encourages multiple purchases—and wraps it all in a celebratory red.
Another big trend in the display-case industry is sustainability. The company uses about 6 million pounds of plastic a year for its display cases, but it’s figured out how to re-use or sell about a million pounds that would otherwise be thrown away. The company also recycles nearly all the 900 gallons of oil it uses to keep its machinery running, buys recycled corrugated materials, uses energy-conserving lighting and voluntarily reduces energy consumption during peak times.
The effort is spurred by consumer preference as well as demand by retailers such as Walmart that have pledged to increase sustainability at every point along the manufacturing and retail chain. “Everything has to be recycled and made with materials that are environmentally friendly,” Wohlwender says, “and we’re keeping up with what we need to do anyway.”