Durability vs Looks: What’s More Important for Retail Fixtures That Take a Beating.

Posted on November 11, 2021 by Bud Morris

Durability vs Looks: What’s More Important for Retail Fixtures That Take a Beating.

Posted on November 11, 2021 by Bud Morris

Manufacturing the most durable fixtures possible for Circle K – A Real World Project Review.

Every retailer faces it – the point in a build where all hopes, dreams, and aspirations boil down to the brass tacks – the reality of function, budgets, and timelines.

While the team here at Canada’s Best Store Fixtures prides itself on how far we push design and engineering, what many people don’t realize is that for every 1x project that pushes the boundaries of retail design-build, 50x “everyday” projects filter through our manufacturing facility that we hardly ever talk about.

And it’s these “everyday” projects that we built our name and reputation on: fixtures and displays that are thoughtfully designed, well-built, delivered on time and on budget.

And so every time I walk the shop floor and look at everything we’re shipping out I can’t help but think to myself, “no one knows how much effort and craftsmanship goes into these things.” Even the ones that look simple.

So, here’s a breakdown of a recent project I’m really proud of. No, we weren’t given a blank cheque. Yes, we had real-world challenges we had to workaround. But all the same, our team delivered.


If you’re outside the world of convenience, you may not know Circle K’s history or its growth in recent years.

Founded in 1951 in El Paso, Texas, the company and brand grew over the decades throughout the US. Meanwhile, in Quebec, Alimentation Couche-Tard also established itself as a convenience powerhouse throughout the ’80s and ’90s.

In 2003, Alimentation Couche-Tard acquired Circle K and has spent the past 6 years rolling out Circle K as its global brand. Today, Alimentation Couche-Tard has 15,000 stores across North America, Europe, and Asia.

When Circle K approached us to build out a new series of food stations, soft drink fountain stations, and checkout counter displays, the project was focused on a single goal: create the most durable and long-lasting fixtures possible, while also taking the entire life-cycle cost of the fixtures into account.

This project had 3 items built out to various sizes/setups based on each store’s custom needs:

  1. Food Stations
    • Designed on a modular footprint allowing a cost-effective multi-store rollout without the need to redesign the fixtures for each location
    • Base cabinets integrating storage, microwaves, and waste bins.
    • Countertops reserved for ready-made food appliances.
    • The stations had to include electrical access for all appliances.
  1. Drink Fountain Stations
    • Like the food stations, these were designed on a modular footprint.
    • Base cabinets have storage space and waste bins, but also integrate cup dispensers.
    • Countertops reserved for drink appliances and fountains.
    • The stations had to include electrical access for all appliances.
  1. Checkout Counter Built-In Display
    • Designed-built to integrate into existing checkout counters adding more shelfspace for impulse buys
    • This fixture integrates pegboard and shelving, making the display versatile and open to a wide range of products and use cases.
    • Each shelf’s pitch varies as you move down the fixture to maintain product facing and eyelines at an average standing height.


While it’s true that our focus was on durability – we weren’t handed a blank cheque. So during the design/prototyping phase of the project each option for the materials/build process had a cost-benefit analysis run on it.

This cost-benefit looked at the difference between initial material/build costs vs the projected in-field use timelines.  Like all manufacturing processes, we can pick the right materials and building techniques to hit a lower price point – but will it last? Alternatively, we could beef everything up and find that it’s over-built.

By taking the true cost of ownership into account rather than simply the upfront costs – Circle K was able to build a business case for doing it right the first time.


Speaking of doing it right the first time, if you want durability and long-lasting fixtures there’s only one option – metal.

While solid wood gives spaces a warm and soft feeling and particleboard is a cost-effective option, neither of these base materials fit the bill. The cost of solid wood drove the project out of scope and particle board isn’t suitable for moisture-exposed wipedown/wash areas.

By custom fabricating the base cabinets out of metal, we had the strength needed to support the extremely heavy appliances. This also kept the material wall thickness to a minimum – maximizing the internal volume for storage space.


Anytime we’re building for the food industry, cleanliness and the ability to wash down surfaces is key.

The food stations are topped with manufactured stone countertops that aren’t affected by heat, don’t warp or sag over time, are impervious to fluids, won’t chip or crack, and are easy to wipe down.

Standard drink stations are topped like the food stations, but to prepare for the sticky, sugary messes ahead, the soft drink fountain stations are topped with stainless steel – the food industry’s choice for the most durable and sanitary countertops.


While the metal bases give us the strength and durability we need – it didn’t complete the look. So all non-stainless steel metal surfaces were powder coated in a clean matte black.

Powder coating gives metal a chip-resistant finish. And the choice in colour helps hide fingerprints, oils, dirt, and grime.

The countertops are made of a manufactured stone that ties in warmer tones and offsets the black/stainless details.

To complete the look, the cabinet doors were surfaced with wood-textured veneers that are easily replaced should Circle K choose to change the colour of their cabinets.


Every retailer has its own #1 priority. For some, it’s the aesthetics. For others, it’s building out of renewable resources. Then, there are timelines, the ability to roll out to thousands of locations across the country, or how we can value-engineer to hit a price point.

Whatever your #1 priority is, we focus on that.

So, if like Circle K you’re looking for long-lasting and durable retail fixtures that work on a budget – it’s time to give our retail design-build team a call.

We’re your one-stop shop for retail environment and fixture design, prototyping, manufacturing, installation, merchandising, and more.

Contact CBSF for a quote.