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This is a strange article. Instead of answering all your questions, I will tell you many of the questions you need to ask while managing fixtures in the market. Trust me – in this case, the questions are more important than any specific answer. You can ponder the answers on your own time.

I am a visual person, so I have included my Homegrown flow chart (PDF) that I use for every “go to market” exercise.

Before we get into it, let’s define fixtures and displays.

Economically, a fixture is traditionally a CAPEX investment, and usually, a display is an OPEX spend. From a more practical view, a fixture is physically larger and presents an extensive product selection. A display usually highlights a single product or category. The exact definitions can be somewhat confusing, but don’t stress – just think of a display as a fixture’s little brother. Below I review a few of the issues in managing fixtures and displays that trade marketing professionals need to consider, and the specific questions you need to ask about each one.

  1. Distribution planning
  2. Economic planning
  3. Logistics process
  4. Tracking process
  5. Service, recall, and repair
  6. End of use

Moving fixtures into the market the first time is straightforward. You have a perfect blank canvas. Replacing fixtures in the market has a slightly more complex structure, and you need historical data and insights to do it correctly. That being said, you need to ask yourself the questions below.

Do you allocate the fixtures or let the field team pick?
Do you hold some back?
How long will the fixtures live in the market?
Do you use a tiering structure that measures the economic value of the dealer against the marketing value they have?
Are you going to treat fixtures that are larger (in size or value) differently than smaller fixtures?
Do you budget by dealer or by another category, like geographic area?
How is the ordering process going to work?
How do you manage and track distribution? Who is approving the spend, and who is accountable for it?

This is a tricky area, and every company has their own methods for making the economics of fixtures and displays look just good enough so they can sleep at night. Trust me when I say that sooner or later, the way these items are accounted for will come up for examination. Over time, the magnitude of these unaddressed issues will increase and the stress on the brand will be even more impactful.

Are you tracking all the expensive fixtures, but not the high-volume cheap ones?
Are you tracking CAPEX vs. OPEX fixtures and displays?
What is your amortization schedule?
Fixtures never all go into the market on the same day. How are you tracking the different in-market days?
How are you tracking the spend if your fixtures ship to a major with their own DC’s?
How are you following the budgetary impacts of sending inventory to the reps to distribute to their dealers?
When are you cutting off moving a fixture into the market, and what is your percentage of waste?
How are you ensuring that the sales volume agreement to place the fixture into the retailer is being maintained?
Where can you store and instantly recall that signed fixture agreement when you need it to remind the retailer of the deal?

As the owners of fixtures and displays, most trade teams are grossly underprepared for the logistics issues that they will face with a fixture and display rollout.

Are you able to use the same logistics network that moves your product into the market? (Hint: Chances are no, due to physical size and weight difference between most products and most fixtures.)
Will your ERP integrate with the new logistics company, or are you handling this manually now, perhaps on Excel?
How are the larger fixtures being set up on-site?
Who is handling unboxing (uncrating) and assembly?
What are you doing with all the packaging and waste from the crate?
Will you need a specialized service for setup and merchandising?
How are you confirming that setup and merchandising are being done correctly and at brand standards? (Hint: Please don’t say your rep force will do this. You can barely get them to participate in simple marketing work. They will not be willing or skilled enough to be involved.)
What is the process if a fixture is damaged on the way into the market?
What if it is missing a part from the OEM?
What if it shows up onsite and the retailer no longer wants it?
What do you do if you want to move a fixture from one dealer to another?

Actual physical tracking of your fixtures and displays can be critical for your brand. What if your fixture has a LED driver in it? What if you get a bad batch and have a bunch of fixtures dark in the market? What if that LED driver catches on fire and puts stores and people’s lives at risk? I have seen this more than once, and it is a HUGE issue. If you do not believe me, ask your legal team.

You know the original location of the shipment, but if you are shipping to the rep or a dealer’s DC, how do you know the actual physical location of each fixture in case of a recall?
How are you managing the movement of fixtures from one dealer to another?
If your CAPEX fixture has a built-in POP display (digital or printable), how are you planning for future seasonal creative changes?
How are you ensuring that you receive regular proof that your fixture is being used and merchandized to current standards?
If new fixtures become available five years from now that directly replace in-market fixtures, how will you create a distribution list? Is your data up to date?

Well, you have done it, you have a fixture program in the market, and it’s increasing sales. Congratulations! As in life, all fixturing eventually starts showing its age. If you are in the CPG world, you know shopping carts destroy fixturing, leaving bumps and bruises everywhere. If you are a luxury brand and your fixturing has a large digital display, what happens when it goes dark? What if the retailer loses the remote?

Do you have a spare parts program?
Do you have a system in place to report damaged fixtures?
How will you dispatch a service team for major repairs?
How do you determine whether a fixture will be repaired or replaced?
How do you ensure repairs are done correctly?
How do you track service, recall and repair spending?
How will you track the running changes of the fixture? (Example: different versions of digital displays will need unique remotes which may later need replacing)

As your brand evolves, you need to update its in-market appearance. If all things in your brand are clicking, the end-use problem will come up eventually. Will your evolving brand image rise anew from the ashes of the old, or will you sputter and fail as you try to gather the data to clean the playing field?

Do you know where your fixtures actually are?
When new fixtures show up, have you allocated budget and time for the additional complexity of setting up new fixtures while removing the old ones?
How do you dispose of the old fixtures and displays? Landfill or recycling?
If your fixtures are mixed materials, do you have a design that allows you to separate them for easy recycling?
What happens to your new-old stock fixtures and parts program in the warehouse when a fixture is replaced in the market? (Be truthful, did you forget about this inventory you own?)
How do you assure that your agents (working for the brand or for vendors) are actually disposing of the fixtures correctly and not taking the cheap and or easy way out? (Hint: Even the people working at landfills have social media. Do you want a single photo of your huge pile of fixtures being crushed by a bulldozer? #stopbrandsfromdestroyingtheplanet?)
Do you want to see your old fixtures being sold on eBay or similar sites? Example: Red bull mini fridge – RARE

 If you have all the above taken care of, you can now accept the award for the #1 fixture manager on the planet!

If you can honestly say, “I don’t have all the above completely managed,” feel free to join the 99.99999 percent of brands that are just trying to do their best in a crazy game.

If I have learned anything, I’ve learned that I do not know the entire problem, nobody does. The variables and extreme edge cases are near-infinite. That being said, I know a few things for sure. Your ERP and CRM can’t possibly manage this, and spreadsheets are not sustainable and silo valuable information away.

Automation and process are the future; it is undeniable. We designed and continue to evolve Regulator to put the above issues into defined process that will adapt as you deploy in the market. Perhaps it’s time to look at how you play the fixture and display game.

The Author

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