Mounts and brackets in the retail sector

Technology is being embraced in greater numbers in the retail sector, what challenges does this pose to mounts and brackets manufacturers? Steve Montgomery finds out.

Nobody in the AV industry can possibly doubt the enormous rise in popularity of screens in the retail sector.  Nowadays they seem to be everywhere; as single displays, videowalls and touch screens in every type of shop.  It seems to be reaching the point that shoppers are no longer aware of many of the screens and take little interest in them. 

However without a complement of large screens around the shop floor, retailers appear to be unfashionably behind the times and this sets retail designers with challenges in how they can include screens into shop fittings whilst making them attractive and attention-grabbing.  As a response, ever-larger and more complex store layouts are being designed with screens incorporated into the store architecture in new and exciting ways.  But this, in turn, sets new challenges to the manufacturers of the mounting hardware that is needed to position and safely hold the screens.

“The retail sector requires specific and dedicated mount solutions because the layout of retail stores, and how owners and brands want to engage with customers, is constantly changing,” says Robert de Jong, director of product marketing EMEA at Chief.  “Retail applications require solutions that appear to be integrated into the store design, to make them look attractive and part of the branding and style of the shop.”  

Peerless-AV Floor to Ceiling Cable Mount Application Image

A further complication is that the shop layout is likely to be refreshed frequently: “Screens and their mounting systems need to be flexible to accommodate new designs as the layout of a store changes,” he says.  “Retail signage and point of sale applications are also evolving.  Videowalls and enormous panels integrated into false walls are a very common sight these days.  Retail end users have a constant drive to stand out from the rest. Stores don’t just want a standard videowall anymore but are increasingly interested in alternative layout designs. Requests like this have been driving the development for our latest Mosaic videowall solutions”

In many shops, the structure of the buildings does not present the ideal base for heavy displays. False walls and ceilings, imposing retail structures and lack of wiring to the display location all add to the difficulty of installing displays.  “Retail environments typically have modern technology requirements that need to be integrated into historic architectural environments,” he says.  “For example, implementing multi-display configurations onto insubstantial walls that are not level or suitable to carry any display weight.”

Mark Walker, business development manager at B-Tech AV Mounts points to a growing trend: “Historically, screens were mounted directly onto the surface of facias or exposed walls and had large spaces behind for cabling and players but this often resulted in unsightly installations.  An increasing trend is the installation of screens into recesses.  We have solutions that enable this and have supplied fixes for everything from small 10in touch screens through to a mammoth 50-screen curved videowall that can be fixed around a spiral staircase over two floors.”

Mount manufacturers have responded to the demand by creating a wide and comprehensive range of solutions.  Walker: “To fulfil the need for perfect installation in recesses, we have produced a complete range of push to release mounts that enable perfectly flush fitting of screens into the tightest of recesses with as little as 1mm gap around the bezel for screens upwards of 10 inches.”

KIPC2 Portrait Kiosk Mall Application

Keith Dutch, managing director of Peerless-AV EMEA agrees: “No two retail stores are the same and no two installations are identical. Today’s installer needs a comprehensive range of mounting options to choose from, with the highest level of quality, safety, serviceability and the maximum possible adjustment to ease on-site install issues. Thus avoiding major delays in installation, servicing and a tiling effect where the screens join, as quite walls are rarely smooth or flat.

“Videowall requirements are also changing in the retail sector.  Many brands want super-size portrait arrays to achieve the greatest audience impact but larger sizes should not be more complicated or time consuming to install.  Our full service video wall mount supports the latest large format displays up to 98-in and is equipped with a simple push release feature for quick service access, particularly in recessed video wall applications.  It provides the versatility and convenience demanded by integrators.”

Displays are becoming slimmer and retailers expect more attractive installations.  As a result, the aesthetic design has moved up higher on the agenda of most installations’ requirements. Walker: “Where we would have previously been asked for low cost pole-based solutions for shop window displays, our premium finish System X aluminium column has far greater appeal and generally preferred.  We are also commonly asked to produce rear covers for in-store displays, something we undertake as part of our bespoke product offering.”

There is also a growing interest in LED displays and these often usurp LCD videowalls because they are able to deliver seamless images at high resolution and have greater light output. “LED panels are becoming more and more popular, both inside brightly lit shops and outside to attract passing customers,” Jannine Van Den Akker, MarCom Coordinator of Vogel’s believes.  “They are particularly effective in shop windows: for their superior brightness, better heat management capability and resistance to damage from direct sunshine.  They can also be built into any size recess and shaped to suit the location.”

Chief Fusion Retail MenuBoard

Security is paramount in public installation and has to be built in to both the mounting system design and the installation.  “Safety is a key issue in public environments such as retail and it’s our role as manufacturer to ensure that our mounts perform as they should both in the hands of the installer and over the whole lifespan of the project,” explains Dutch. “All Peerless-AV products undergo stringent testing to UL specifications, including 4 x weight loading and cycle testing, seismic safety and tip testing.  With screens becoming lighter and thinner, we have also asserted the importance of light push force on display screen release mechanisms.  When we released our first quick release mount for ultra-thin LCD panels, we made sure the force required to trigger the service release function was kept to an absolute minimum. Today, the required push force remains even more important as we are seeing thinner and lighter screens, which are easily damaged if harshly handled.”

Although many large screens and video walls are in out-of-the-way locations and well away from public access, a large proportion of displays are installed at shopper level.  This presents problems to installers and owners, as de Jong points out: “With videowall applications the biggest challenge for retail is security and rigidity.  A video wall located within reach of shoppers precludes the use of conventional video wall mounts with a push-release system as they represent a risk of accidental pop-outs. For this reason remote latching systems that release the displays only on demand are an important consideration for retail and eliminate the risk of unwanted service calls.”

An emerging trend on shop floors and within shopping centres is for kiosks and standalone enclosures.  These can take advantage of unused floor space and have the additional benefit of being easily relocatable to meet changes in customer flow around the store or to fill in empty spaces.  They also add to shopper convenience when interactive touch screens, product sensor and recognition devices and scanners are incorporated, making information more readily available and relieving shop assistants from some of the more mundane enquiries about item location within the store.  

Demand for these types of display is increasing.  “Enclosures and kiosks allow optimum positioning, putting messages directly in the line of sight of customers.  Displays that can be mounted from ceilings on poles offer another way to place displays in premium footfall areas, but enclosures offer a cheaper and more convenient alternative with the option of mobility when needed.  For interactive applications, the surrounding structure can be branded with additional messaging to promote engagement” says Perdee Gould, business development manager of system integrator, Handy AV.  “Enclosures are a popular choice for wayfinding and are increasingly used for interactive advertising and points of sale information providers.  With the introduction of Wifi enabled signage such as SpotSign, this allows flexibility in remote screen positioning in shopping centres both internally and externally”

Walker agrees that the role of interactive kiosks is rising: “We’ve experienced a significant rise in kiosk enquiries in both traditional retail digital signage as well as interactive product at the point of decision making.  Within shops, tablet enclosures are commonplace now; demand for our fixed and freestanding enclosures is also steadily on the increase.”

There has been an advance toward omnichannel shopping.  Robin Phillips, director of omnichannel and development explains the application within Boots UK: “We’re investing in innovative new technology to further improve the retail experience for our customers and mobility is at the forefront of this transformation,” he says.

“By developing Sales Assist, in collaboration with IBM and Apple, and launching it on the 3,700 iPads in our stores, we’re integrating our digital and in-store presence to deliver an even better shopping environment for customers.  This unique tool allows our colleagues to quickly show product information, ratings and reviews, look up inventory online and make recommendations based on online analytics, all from the shop floor.  It will even help our smallest stores feel like a flagship shop, with access to the entire Boots range at their fingertips.”

Omnichannel presents new marketing opportunities for mount and bracket manufacturers.  Gould: “As an installer I would like to see manufacturers offer sleek, stylish desk, table or even podium style mounts that enable shoppers to browse small form touch screens or tablets and iPads.  Customers can switch between home and stores when searching products allowing them to interact with instore product locaters, order points, customer service and support.  Omnichannel browsing areas in larger stores could be the biggest change in our everyday shopping experience.”

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