Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Retail Security Solutions

Working in the retail fixture industry, Advanced Cabinet Systems fulfills numerous requests from customers wanting their displays to be as secure as possible. Would-be thieves are getting craftier and often times it seems that if a product is not nailed down, there is the potential that it will grow legs and walk right out of your store. If your security devices can be picked, cut, deactivated, or broken off, someone will find a way--resulting in a loss of profit for your business and loads of frustration for you.

In order to offer our customers the best security devices to meet an ever-growing list of needs, we try to stay as up to date as possible on what the market has to offer. Below are a few of our go-to products that we have found to be reliable options for combating retail theft. This may seem like a paid advertisement for one company, but trust me it's not, we just really like their products!

1. Invue Series 1000 Impact Display Stands
These stands feature an internal recoil mechanism that returns the product to the display position each time it is handled. It also has a built-in alarm that will sound if the device is disconnected from the stand--and speaking from experience, it is a loud alarm that no one in the store is going to miss! These stands provide users with a lot of flexibility, giving them the option to secure dummy phones, charge live phones, or provide customers with an interactive display that is triggered when the device is lifted from the base.

2. Invue Locking Gridwall Hooks
Many of our customers stock their accessories on grid wall panels, and these locking hooks from Invue are a great way to keep products secure, while still being quick and easy for employees to remove when necessary. 

3. Vanguard Cell Phone Security Stands
Similar to the Invue stands above, Vanguard Products Group offers a wide range of security options for hand held devices, tablets, and accessories. These devices offer the same user-friendly options when it comes to displaying products, while providing peace of mind that items are safe and secure.

4. Invue Cabinet Lock
Invue cabinet locks are great choice for retailers looking to retrofit existing cabinetry--with no tools or drilling required, installation is a snap. This lock features PowerTouch technology that transfers power from the key to the lock, meaning you will never have to worry about replacing batteries, providing years of worry-free security.

5. Invue LTO2 Tablet Security
New to Invue, this product can power up any tablet on the market while keeping it secure and functional when on display. The display stand allows the product to be mounted either vertically or horizontally, while remaining virtually invisible from the front--keeping product displays clean and uncluttered.

A large portion of my design work is geared toward the technology industry and I realize that is where most of these security solutions would be most useful. So, I would love to hear from you--what kind of security measures do you take to ensure that your merchandise doesn't fall prey to sticky fingers?

sources: one . two . three . four . five

Monday, August 20, 2012

Shipping Container Stores

As I was going through my undergrad schooling for interior design, the use of shipping containers as building structures was quickly gaining steam. Fast forward a few years (many of which I paid little attention to this trend) and I am admittedly behind the curve. However, over the past few months of work related research, several retail stores made entirely of shipping containers have flashed across my screen, and given the overabundance of really cool designs that they typically employ, I couldn't resist any longer in compiling a small list of a few of my favorites.

Reusing shipping containers is not only good for the environment, but is also a good option for retailers looking to save a few bucks, as they can typically be purchased for around $2000. They are also make great pop-up shops, offering a portable structure that is durable and easy to ship from one location to the next.

Mock-up of DKNY pop-up shop

Last year, DKNY offered a small sampling of its wares throughout Manhattan, housing them in a shipping container pop-up store. The need for a easy to set up (it took less than an hour!), portable design was critical to this project, as the store changed locations each day over the course of the three day event.

richard chai snarkitecture exterior

In 2010, fashion designer Richard Chai opened a pop-up store in Manhattan. Costing a mere $5,000, this location paired high fashion with flawless interior design.

The Starbucks Reclamation Drive-Thru

Starbucks Reclamation Drive Thru located in Tukwila, Washington has garnered a lot of attention since the 450 sq ft portable structure was constructed. Comprised of four salvaged shipping containers, it was designed specifically to explore new options in sustainability--showcasing the company's ongoing dedication to providing sustainable structures and business practices.

Ilan Dei pop-up shop in Venice

This shipping container houses the Ilan Dei Studio pop-up store and project lab, which opened in Venice, California earlier this month. The primary goal of this clean, modern design is to showcase the indoor-outdoor living of the California lifestyle. Three separate sections house a traditional lifestyle store, art gallery, and a community area for events such as yoga classes and ping pong games.

sustainable design, green design, shipping containers, shipping container architecture, Mexico, Container City, container restaurant, shipping container restaurant, recycled materials

shipping containers, shipping container architecture, Mexico, Container City, container restaurant, shipping container restaurant, recycled materials

One of my all time favorite use of salvaged shipping containers is Container City located in Cholula, Mexico. Restaurants, galleries, bars, stores and living spaces occupy the nearly 50 colorful containers carefully arranged to form courtyards, alleys, and streets.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to employing recycled shipping containers in design. From temporary pop-up stores to permanent cities, these structures provide a durable, eco-friendly alternative to conventional construction methods. This is one craze that has definitely caught my attention, and I anticipate it hanging around for many more years to come!

sources: one . two . three . four . five . six . seven

Monday, August 13, 2012

Building Information Modeling

In June, Advanced Cabinet Systems announced the release of their Revit Families Catalog. This was a significant step for the company in providing resources that meet the ever-changing demands of technology in the architectural community, while also allowing ACS products to be integrated into their drawings. In light of this release, I wanted to take a look at Building Information Modeling (BIM) and how it is helping to change the face of building construction.

The National Building Information Modeling Standard Project Committee (try saying that three times fast), defines BIM as "a digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a facility. A BIM is a shared knowledge resource for information about a facility forming a reliable basis for decisions during its life-cycle; defined as existing from earliest conception to demolition." Now, after reading that definition I was still a little in the dark about what BIM actually was, so in case you are too, hopefully the rest of this post will clear it up a little better...

Building Information Modeling goes beyond the standard 2D drawings often used in construction, and renders the entire space in 3D--while also allowing the user to see the time and cost associated with each phase of the process. This allows for quick extraction of different views of the building, saving time and resources that would otherwise be spent on the drafting table, and allowing the project to proceed without delay. If problems are detected within the drawing, elements can be easily changed while also maintaining an updated schedule of materials for ordering and tracking purposes.

Another major benefit of BIM is the ease of which a job can be handed off from one person to the next. Gone are the days of having to keep track of page after page of changes and revisions, with BIM each worker adds to a single drawing file and hands it down to the next--lowering the potential that information will be lost in the process and reducing the chance that costly mistakes will be made as a result.

With tight schedules and budget constraints, Building Information Modeling helps architects, builders, and designers work quickly and efficiently by allowing them to visualize the space from start to finish. This allows them to work out any potential problems before construction even begins; saving valuable time and resources, and often leading to projects that finish ahead of schedule and under-budget.

sources: one . two . three . four

Monday, August 6, 2012

Book Stores in the Digital Age

A quick Google search on the “future of bookstores” brings up countless articles written over the past couple of years by bloggers, bookstore owners, news outlets, and vendors, each one with a unique opinion on how they think these establishments will look in the coming years. With the popularity of eReaders on the rise, as well as the closing of several of the largest bookstore chains in the country, there is no question that the face of bookstores is changing and retailers must either change with it or be prepared to close their doors in the coming years.
One trend that has been gaining attention in recent months is the Espresso Book Machine (EBM), which allows bookstores to access a large database of written works and print them in-house as needed.1 This allows owners to increase their inventory without the actual investment of having to stock physical copies in-store.4 Proponents of this machine argue that this not only eliminates the waste associated with overprinting, but lowers the cost of each book for the end user by reducing expenses associated with shipping and storing large inventories.1 Prices are also lowered as bookstores are able to essentially cut out the middle-man, i.e. printers and distributors, and sell directly to the customer. In a college bookstore setting, EBM would give educators the freedom to quickly change and update course material, giving students access to the most current information in their field while saving them the expense of having to purchase multiple editions of the same textbook.3

While the above facts would be enough to get many people on board with the Espresso Book Machine’s capabilities, there are a few things that potential buyers need to keep in mind before taking the plunge. The start-up cost associated with purchasing a single machine is significant, with some sources placing it in the $100k range.2 Pair this initial investment with the high cost of operating and staffing the machine and there-in lies the potential that EBM owners will not turn a profit for upwards of four years. Opponents of the EBM also reference the ability of express print shops, such as Fed Ex Office and Staples, to print and bind individual copies of books on machines that are currently found in their stores. Although these print-and-go locations currently do not have access to the extensive database provided by EBM, South African based Paperight is working to change that by connecting customers who want to purchase books with publishers who are interested in selling their products via local print shops.

Another book buying method that analysts believe will continue to gain speed is the eReader. With several versions already on the market today, Amazon is leading the way with their Kindle and Kindle Fire, with Barnes and Noble’s Nook quickly gaining ground. While many believe that eReaders will be the demise of the printed book industry, a few visionary booksellers are embracing these devices and their potential to increase sales with open arms. Google eBooks is partnering with independent bookstores across the nation, allowing customers to purchase e-books via a link on the store’s website with retailers receiving a 20-40% kickback on the profits.6  

With digital editions of textbooks now being introduced on a regular basis, campus bookstores would also be wise to jump on board with the eReader movement, renting devices to students that come preloaded with all of the course material for their current semester. Bookstore staff would then handle the transfer of information as a student progresses from class to class.3 This business model has been met with success at a library in Eau Claire, Wisconsin that lends out iPads to its cardholders, and there are an additional 11,000 libraries in the United States that allow patrons to borrow Kindle ebooks.5

If booksellers are not yet ready to dive into the world of digital books, there are numerous other measures that can be implemented into their day to day workings that are both low cost and high yield strategies to increase customer interaction. A functional website and Facebook account are easy ways to get your store’s name out there. An effective website will afford customers the opportunity to browse your inventory and allow them to purchase books for pick up in-store. Due to the often vast offerings of today’s bookstores, it is also a good idea to provide on-location access to your website and inventory to those patrons who may find such a large selection of books to be overwhelming.8 Incentive programs that give discounts to repeat customers can also be a low cost method of drumming up extra sales.4

In many communities, bookstores are seen as community centers where people gather to discuss, create, and listen. Organizing simple events such as monthly movie nights, game nights, and lectures from prominent members of the community will offer ways to stay connected with patrons.5 Other events might include book signings with well-known authors, poetry readings, art exhibits, or an open mic night.8 Keeping the surrounding community involved and engaged with your bookstore is paramount in making sure it does not go the way of record shops and video rental stores of the past.

The ability to celebrate holidays is one advantage that brick and mortar stores will always have over internet-based businesses. Shoppers are often sentimental when it comes to the changing of seasons and something as simple as putting out a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils (a la You’ve Got Mail) for Back to School days or stringing a few twinkly lights (again, thank you Kathleen Kelly) for the holidays can make a huge difference in the mood of both your store employees and shoppers. Make your stores a haven for people to visit when they want to escape the fast pace of society.

As the need for physical books decreases in the coming years, bookstores will become smaller and more efficient9, allowing shop owners to allocate more money toward making sure their interior design and promotional displays are top notch. Many independent bookstores today often do not meet their full operating potential by ignoring the fact that their store fronts are a place for them to paint a picture of the magic that can be found just inside their doors.8 A few pillars displaying the latest books in print simply will not cut it—draw the casual passerby in with a fascinating window display and keep them coming back with a beautifully designed, well thought out space. Customers will appreciate comfortable areas throughout the store where they can gather in groups or get lost in a book by themselves. No one ever complained about free Wi-Fi or a coffee bar either!6

While it appears that companies such as Amazon, with their low prices and fast service, may indeed do away with the need for physical bookstores, there are still countless people who argue that the human need for the community that such a place offers will eventually prevail. People have the built in desire to interact with others and bookstores are a place where they can meet, learn, and discuss new ideas.7 Many book lovers will also agree that the experience of pulling a new book off the shelf and holding a physical copy in your hands cannot be matched by the low prices of Amazon or the instant satisfaction of downloading a book to your eReader at home. Bookstores help to enrich to lives of people that live in the communities where they are located and as the “buy local” movement sweeps across the nation, brick and mortar stores will be where people gravitate.6 In turn, owners need to make sure they are doing everything in their power to make their stores the best that they can be.

The importance of integrating technology, organizing community events, or decorating your store windows and interior cannot be stressed enough, but all of the effort that a store owner puts towards these things will be in vain if they have an inexperienced and incapable staff manning the sales floor. For many people, the reason they shop at bookstores instead of online is for the expertise of the owner and staff.3 It is vital to staff your stores with people who are passionate about books and are capable of making suggestions to customers about what they should read. In this day in age where online, shoppers are inundated with rating and reviews written by people they will never meet, it is a breath of fresh air to get an honest opinion from someone they can actually see. Owners must realize the important role that customer service plays in the survival of the brick and mortar bookstore.6 

While no one really knows for sure the direction that physical bookstores are headed until a major shift takes place, many people are making their predictions on the future that booksellers can expect to encounter in the coming years. One of them is David Houle, a strategist and keynote speaker who is consistently ranked as one of the top futurists. Houle believes that by the year 2015, the majority of books will be read via eReaders, adding, that as technology continues to get less expensive, the profit margin for these devices will disappear. By 2020, he believes that brick and mortar stores selling new books will be obsolete as new works are consumed almost entirely through digital readers. Houle also predicts that the bookstores capable of surviving the digital era will primarily sell used books as people will desire to have physical copies of those works that are sentimental to them.9

As bookstore owners are faced with the undeniable potential that their shops could suffer the same fate as the once thriving video rental business, they can take heart in the fact that there are still numerous strategies that can be implemented to keep their stores viable and relevant in the changing times. Engaging customers through community-based events, creating marketing strategies to reach a broader audience, embracing the ever-changing world of technology, and providing valuable customer service are just a few steps that can be taken toward ensuring that bookstores remain an essential component of the retail landscape.
What will the bookstore of the future look like? With owners that are forward thinking and willing to adapt, the possibilities are endless. 
sources: 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 . 5 . 6 . 7 . 8 . 9
pictures: one . two . three . four . five . six