Retail Fixture Buying Guide

Posted on December 3, 2020 by Bud Morris

Retail Fixture Buying Guide

Posted on December 3, 2020 by Bud Morris

Insider tips on how to find the right retail fixture for your store.

Buying retail fixtures is not a simple decision. After all, you have to balance your budget, with the fact that most retail fixtures have an expected lifespan of 5-7 years, with a brand and atmosphere that has to be maintained or elevated. 

With everything that goes into finding the perfect retail fixture for your space, you have to make sure you’re making the most informed choice.

So, we’re going to break down what goes into finding or custom-building the perfect fixture for your brand and budget.

The Topics We’ll Cover In This Retail Fixture Buyer’s Guide:

Where to start?
  • Focus on brand.
  • Get excited!
  • Make the most of what’s around it.
What’s it for?
  • Plan for a function.
  • Know all the details.
  • Ask what else it has to do.
Build & Price.
  • Don’t get stuck on the materials.
  • Build it to the right spec.
  • Consider how it will get to you.
Let’s get started!


Although every aspect of your retail fixture is important, the place to start is by taking a step back from the fixture itself and looking at the space and environment the fixture is there to help create.

So naturally, we start with design and inspiration.

Focus on brand.

Whether the retail fixture is a part of a complete rebuild, a new program, or just a one-off, each new fixture brings with it an opportunity to evolve your environment and shopping experience.

This is where Pinterest or Google Image searches are great for checking out what other retailers are doing. Most people start by looking at their competitors. And while this can help for industry-specific retail fixtures, we typically don’t recommend focusing too heavily on what your competitors are doing. Building your unique brand and environment means that the best inspiration comes from further afield. We suggest looking outside your industry and even outside of your current geographies for new ideas and inspiration.

Get excited!

At this point in the process, anything is possible, and that should be incredibly exciting. So as you look through the inspiration photos, the design jumping-off points, or the design elements that have caught your eye, consider your “why?”

What is it about the design, the photo, the sample that caught your eye? What parts of the samples draw you in? What are the most exciting aspects of your design elements? This is critical in knowing what fundamental elements are essential to you and what isn’t, which will help match the build to the budget later in the process.


I think Carm McCormick, our Director of Design + Store Planning said it best, “The number one thing that retailers should have completely locked down when looking for a fixture is really understanding the function, what do they need out of this fixture.”

So when it comes to what you need to get out of this fixture to make it work for your business, we have to look at four key areas.

Plan for a function.

We’ve seen a shift over the past few years, where retailers expect more out of each fixture. And it only makes sense, of course if you could have a single fixture work for 10-15 different types of product, parts of your store, or setups – having a more universal, Meccano-style fixture gives your future business more options.

The problem with the universal retail fixture approach is that these fixtures, while very practical, tend to cost more upfront and are often never actually used in the potential-future-setups, making it hard to justify their higher costs.

Decide if it’s more critical for you to:

  • Have a more cost-effective fixture that excels in 2-3 areas, but may not work for potential future setups that may never actually happen; or…
  • Have a universal fixture that is pretty much future-proof, but may not excel at any 1 or 2 things, and at a higher cost.

Know all the details.

Quite simply, what’s the retail fixture going to shelve, store, display, or promote?

This is where all of the details come into account as it informs both the design of the fixture but also the build, materials, and costs. So note down all the details including:

  • The different types of goods the fixture is expected to hold or display.
  • Dimensions, weight, and number of items.
  • How the goods are packaged, from case pack, to individual, to hung.
  • Capacity requirements of the fixture including the number of items, volume of product, and re-stock rates.
  • How you’re planning to “sign” the product, be it for pricing, sales, or promotions.

Ask what else it has to do.

The way we see it, a fixture is never just a fixture. So depending on the size of your store, the amount of storage you may have, the lighting conditions, or even how permanent your fixture setups are must all be considered.

  • Does your store have a lot of storage? If not, then the fixtures may be required to store extra stock.
  • Do your products require additional lighting? If so, then shelf-level or custom lighting can be incorporated into the fixture.
  • Is the fixture temporary or semi-permanent? If so, then the disassemble/rebuild/disassemble/rebuild… process tends to take a toll on the connection points and fasteners. This can easily be accounted for by building the fixtures to the specs required saving you having to throw away parts prematurely.


The final step in the process is to consider the build process, the materials and engineering, shipping and costs.

Don’t get stuck on the materials.

Knowing the type of materials you would like your retail fixtures to be made of is a key decision. Obviously, a solid wood retail fixture is different from glass, or metal, or acrylic. So while knowing the type of material you want your fixture to be constructed of is important directionally, try not to prescribe the exact material (or at the very least if you do want to prescribe everything right down to the last detail, be prepared to have a conversation about it, and be open to suggestions from the pros).

For example, a metal fixture that’s intended to have a stainless steel look and finish could be constructed out of stainless (a more costly and labour-intensive material) or another more cost-effective steel with an applied finish. In this example, if you didn’t need the strength and structural benefits of stainless steel and are just chasing the look, the more cost-effective solution may be right for you.

Build it to the right spec.

This is where all of those questions that we asked in earlier sections come together.

Drawing on everything from the design and inspiration phase, the critical details from the function and use phase, to now rank and prioritize what’s important to you. From this, your fixture can be built in the most cost-effective way while still meeting your criteria to ensure it will stand up to wear and tear, represent your brand, and last for the projected lifespan.

Consider how it will get to you.

Lastly, how will the fixture get to you and be installed? Consider that each of these factors also affects how a fixture is sourced, designed, built and priced.

  • Can, and should, the fixture be knocked down for shipping or is it fully-assembled? Knocked down keeps shipping costs down but requires more onsite assembly.
  • Are there any special requirements for load-in and installation? For example, is it within a space that only has street or escalator access that would require additional considerations during construction?
  • Do you have installation and merchandising services on your team, or would you need help with that?


Having delivered for over 10,000 locations and 200 million+ sq ft of retail space, we’re so close to retail fixtures, retail displays, and building the most effective retail environments possible that this all comes second nature to us.

And that’s the very challenge many clients face. Most clients simply don’t have exposure to the intricacies or the benefits and drawbacks that come from different fixture styles, materials, use-cases, etc.

So in truth, this buyer’s guide will make you a more informed retailer and a wiser buyer – but if you gave our retail design team a call, we could easily walk you through the whole process and take care of all the details for you.