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Fixture Solutions: Five Steps to Ideal Execution

Fixtures are foundational to retail environments. So, when supply chain issues became a major headache, their acquisition and deployment — particularly at scale— became a critical challenge.

At Miller Zell, overcoming that challenge for clients became a source of pride.

“I have partnered with Miller Zell on multiple fixture projects in the past four years, and they have always met our standards for quality and timeliness,” said Michelle Breen, Senior Fixture Analyst and Project Manager for Advance Auto Parts and Carquest. “Even through the pandemic and resulting impacts on global production and shipping, the Miller Zell team has kept me informed of the challenges and provided enough time to adjust timelines on my side. I can count on them to find solutions and deliver them where and when I need them.” 

While these issues are still present, they are diminishing.

If fixture procurement is no longer the overriding challenge, then what should retailers focus on as they refresh their store environments?

From the Miller Zell perspective, and as Breen noted above, retailers should refocus on a holistic understanding of costs and project execution that provides branded environmental upgrades that create ROI.

Retail fixtures should:

  1. Meet your needs, not an inflexible schedule
  2. Provide compatibility and durability
  3. Offer both style and function
  4. Optimize the customer experience
  5. Aspire toward sustainability

Meet your needs

Can you order to your store-by-store plan or are you required to conform to an inflexible schedule? It’s important to understand full costs of ownership and project completion, as cost per unit isn’t the endgame.

Some fixture providers simply take orders, produce for a full store and then deliver on a specific date. They offer an order and delivery plan that is straightforward — read: inflexible — but consider asking about the details, such as accommodating project execution variables with warehousing, packaging and distribution procedures that minimize waste and expense.

When you add in customized logistics that help manage installation execution, it provides you control while also driving down costs.

Compatibility and durability

It’s likely, particularly after the supply chain complexity of the pandemic, that your stores include fixtures from multiple vendors. And often those fixtures aren’t compatible with other vendors’ systems.

Make sure you ask about fixture system compatibility — even ask for a sample and demonstration so there won’t be any sacrifice of aesthetics or functionality.

As for that functionality, are the fixtures easily adaptable to changing needs, such as seasonal promotions? Fixtures that are flexible, modular and durable can provide refreshed and different looks and uses for years.

Retailers also often need to accommodate a diverse footprint of stores. That means flexibility includes ease of initial installation, as well as the potential to be moved to new locations as seasons and purposes change. It’s worthwhile to know in advance if installation and deployment changes can be easily accomplished by associates, as opposed to professional installers.

Further, will moving and changing fixture layouts wear them down and make them less attractive? Durability matters as a part of flexibility, and ascertaining the lifespan of various fixtures should be considered part of ROI.

Style & function

Retail fixtures showcase merchandise. They need to simultaneously look good and serve their practical purpose. They help organize your store layout, creating intuitive customer-product interaction, while also optimizing space.

Further, if retail crime is a significant issue, updated fixtures can include features that prevent or minimize shrink.

And, of course, there’s the cumulative effect of a store’s design that incorporates the variety of fixtures within, supporting a desired ambiance while also creating an ideal product presentation.

Customer experience

The customer experience is what your products and fixtures combine to provide, and it can be both simple and complicated.

At a basic level, fixtures should support customers finding, learning about and purchasing products, and new fixtures should specifically provide ROI by improving all three of these parts of the customer experience.

The complicated part is understanding that the strategic deployment of fixtures within a holistically conceived store environment also includes unconscious cues for customers. A customer taking a shopping survey might say she liked her store experience without noting intuitive wayfinding, appealing branding, compelling ambient lighting and effective digital interactions from app to fixture and back.

Advanced analytics and strategic data analysis can influence many subtle elements of optimized fixture use and placement. A retailer can make simple tweaks to simultaneously improve store navigation and dwell time while also encouraging store exploration and impulse purchases. 

A few years ago, providing thorough product information on a display could lead to a cluttered look. Now a touchscreen or simple QR code can allow customers to quickly find product information or order a different color or style of product for same-day delivery.

Upgraded fixtures can provide the sort of modernized customer experience that is celebrated with five-star ratings or social media praise. And outdated fixtures can provide the opposite.


Miller Zell pursues green and eco-friendly policies and procedures — from recycling to material selections to emissions to energy consumption — in every aspect of our in-house, vendor partner and client work.

We share these values with many of our clients. And it’s not just about publicly celebrating corporate social responsibility. It’s also about good business, as sustainability is a priority for many of your customers.

This therefore is part of the value our fixture solutions offer retailers, providing style, function, flexibility and durability that combine to boost the customer experience and support brand-right merchandising, all delivered on time and on budget.

During the pandemic and supply chain challenges, we titled one of our client case studies “No excuses logistical execution.” That continues to be an important part of our overriding goal to design, develop and deliver solutions that meet and exceed client expectations.