Stylmark = FUN!

I can’t tell you how often my friends say they never have fun at work.  Stylmark’s Chairman of the Board David Brink says, “If you are not having fun, you are not making money”. 

The key is to have FUN!   Since I started in 2005, I discovered there is a rich tradition of having fun at Stylmark.  The employee-owners of Stylmark start the year off with a pancake breakfast that is prepared and served by the executive team.  Then after GlobalShop, the sales and marketing teams host a cookie thank-you for all the hard work the entire company does to make our presence at GlobalShop a huge success. 

June is the kick off for Stylmark’s summer event.  Ladder ball (not to brag but I am the ladder ball champ of 2015), horseshoes, badminton, etc. are just some of the events we have had in the past.  The event finals are played during our annual ice cream social in July.  Stylmark supports local company Sebastian Joe’s Ice Cream for this event.  I am still waiting for Sebastian Joe to ask me to create a flavor for them – it would be white amaretto ice cream with strawberries and white chocolate chips!

Then once all the kids are back in school, Stylmark will host its annual tailgate party.  This event allows the employee-owners to show their “Packer Pride” or “Show Your Horns”.  In 2018, Stylmark is proud to support another local company Fat Chance Sandwich Shop of Brooklyn Park for this event.  Employees will be treated to Chef Bubba’s life-changing caramel cake as well as some standard tailgate favorites.

In October is our annual costume contest and potluck. And in December we have our famous “Grazing Days” and it is exactly what you think.  Grazing for days!

Then we cap the year off with our holiday luncheon a few days before Christmas.  Another Minnesota company – D’Amico Catering, who has catered all Stylmark’s holiday events for as long as I can remember providing the employees a fabulous meal before we are off to spend time with our families.

Then we start the fun all over again in January!

It Is that Time of the Year Again – Back-to-School Shopping!

Back-to School shopping has become its own season, second only to Christmas shopping in terms of family expenditures.  As I walked to the back to school section at my neighborhood Target store as I do every year, I had to pause to think, why would anyone miss out on this experience and shop for back to school on-line?  Like clockwork, I hit Target the second week of July to purchase my back-to-school supplies.   

While shopping this last weekend, I was able to offer insight to a first-time school mom struggling to make sense of the list the school provided for the supplies needed for her child starting middle school.  You don’t get that kind of personal help online.  Two years ago, I was that parent struggling to figure out what my son needed, and someone was there to help me make sense of what was really needed vs. what was printed on the list the school provided.

But even the seasoned back-to-school shopper like myself needs help.  I have been making several rookie mistakes back-to-school shopping for years.

Just today, I learned from that back to school shoppers who shop before August spend an average of $532 on their K-12 kids, while those parents who choose to shop in August spend just $458.   I have been making this mistake for nine years by shopping in July for school supplies.

Take an inventory of what you currently have and keep that list with you or snap a pic of the items, so you have a reference while you shop.

Another mistake parents including myself make is avoiding the office supply stores.  Fewer than one in three parents shop these stores but according to the National Retail Federation, that could be a mistake.  Shoppers assume stores like Staples and Office Depot can’t compete with prices offered by Target and Walmart.  However, back-to-school is the season for office supply stores and they don’t disappoint.  Their “doorbuster” pricing on basic supplies like pens, pencils, folders and loose-leaf paper can be cheaper than big-box stores.

Last, buy only what you need.  Avoid the items that look fun.  Shop alone – leave the kids at home.  I know this might sound harsh but once they see those fun items, it is just a matter of seconds before they are in your cart and heading home with you.

Have a great 2018-2019 school year!!!

In-Store Retail Evolution: From Distribution Channel to Customer Experience

Wikipedia says that evolution is the change in heritable characteristics of biological populations over successive generations.  As we hear never ending noise about store closings in the retail world, many are quick to panic.  But researchers at are saying it’s all about evolution and the outlook is very positive.   That in face of continued growth in digital commerce, the physical store will continue to be the largest revenue-producing channel until at least 2026.

And did you know that stores are more profitable than e-commerce? According to Forbes, most of the top 10 retailers have an e-commerce presence, but the physical store is the backbone of their business.  Physical stores have higher conversion rates (the percent of store/site visitors who make a purchase – than clicks).  Also, according to Forbes, a store purchase is more profitable than an e-commerce order due to shipping / handling charges and the cost associated with returns. 

The most eye-opening fact to support retail is alive and well is the statistic that Millennials and Generation Z both prefer in-store to digital shopping according to CBRE.  70% of Millennials and 77% of Generation Z consumers prefer brick-and-mortar retail stores.  Millennials and Generation Z are the future of retail!  And that is why online players such as Warby Parker and Amazon have been scrambling to open physical stores.

So, the next time you hear gossip at the water cooler about how retail is dying, I hope you share your thoughts that the physical store is here to stay!  And we are part of the evolution of retail shopping.

And for those responsible for creating the customer in-store experience, Stylmark is here to help!  From fitting rooms & fitting room mirrors to showcases and LED light boxes, Stylmark offers a wide range of products.  If you need something custom, work with Stylmark’s design engineering team to create a one-of-a-kind fixture to enhance an instore experience for your shopper

Everything Is Going Pop-Up

According to Wikipedia, Pop-up Retail, also known as pop-up store, is a trend of opening short-term sales spaces that started in Los Angeles with a company called Vacant after they saw similar concepts in Tokyo.  This temporary use of a physical space creates a long-term, lasting impression with customers.

When I was a high school DECA student, I was involved in my first pop-up store experience.   We opened a store using items donated from several local retailers.  A percentage of any items we sold was donated to our DECA club.   We got fixtures and hangers from neighboring stores and mall management allowed us to use a vacant spot for our store.   Hence, in my eyes, the first pop-up store was created by 15 DECA students from Eau Claire, WI., many, many years ago.

The retail landscape is seeing more and more pop-up shops as they are a great way to connect with a global audience, giving retailers the opportunity to showcase their products all around the world.

Today I have seen this “pop-up” concept evolve past retail environments and into many different areas.

Lifetime Fitness now offers pop-up classes to launch new formats – “We are having a pop-up Gluteus Maxout class on Friday night.  Register today!”

Minneapolis based creative agency SOLVE used an innovative pop-up concept to hire its next round of summer interns by creating a small-scale replica of its office and lobby then transporting it to college campuses.

Pop-up shops are here to stay as the movement is fueling a retail revolution, but the concept of “pop-up” will also continue to grow. From those fun pop-up classes when you don’t have anything better to do on a Friday after work than hit the gym or a creative way to showcase your company to attract the best and brightest new college grads.  Keep your eyes open as things are popping!

6463 – What does it mean?

Could it be the Office Max location number in Apple Valley, MN – YES

Is it a pattern number for a Butterick loose-fitting lined jacket – YES

Maybe it is the part number for the Lunar Rover LEGO set – YES

Is it the model number for the AeroCone Rain Collector – YES

For those in retail store and commercial design, 6463 is the ideal chose for interior architecture aluminum because it is ideal for anodizing.  6463 is alloyed with magnesium and silicon to allow for unlimited anodized color possibilities.

Aluminum Alloy 6463 is the preferred choice of aluminum for achieving outstanding in brightness retention.  The 6463-aluminum alloy produces a bright, mirror-like, high quality finish, good machinability and formability. Ideal for fitting rooms, trim applications, showcases, shelving, mirror trims, light boxes and hotel closet doors.

Stylmark is proud to say that all our aluminum extrusions are from the 6463 alloys and come directly from extruders located in the United States.  Stylmark offers over 1000 anodized color and finish combinations in their color library. 

If we don’t already have a formula to match your desired color, we can create one. Simply provide us with a swatch of the color you’re looking for, and our Research and Development team go to work to match your desired color!

To request Stylmark’s color card of anodized finishes, please contact

Stylmark's Impact on Airport Travelers

As you head out to GlobalShop 2018, did you know that the average traveler spends about two hours in airports prior to departure?  And that “dwell time” can increase at any moment for delays due to weathers, system glitches, etc.   So, as you are walking around the airport on a delay, have you ever read the ads that are omni-present throughout the airport?  If you have, you would not be alone.  Those ads are seen by an average of 1.1 billion travelers a year.

That is why in 2010 Clear Channel Airports (CCA) contacted after seeing an ad about Stylmark about partnering to create a series of custom-designed light boxes that are designed specifically to hold up to the wear and tear of daily airport traffic. 

The Spectacular offers a graphic size of 135” x 83”, while the Diorama graphic size is 62” x 43”.  Stylmark also created for CCA a Double Diorama that offers the option for a single graphic space (124” x 43”) or by adding a black partition it becomes graphic space for two advertisers (62” x 43”). 

Stylmark light boxes provide 1000 lumen back lighting resulting in brilliant graphics with no fade from ambient light. They are easy to install with a standard cleat system, and accepts either tension fabric (using an SEG gasket) or transparency film. 

Stylmark also provides CCA with customer product installations:

  • Mounting systems for tension fabric frames and light boxes (Fargo, Austin, Minneapolis, Kansas City)
  • Custom shroud systems for video walls (San Francisco, Minneapolis, Nashville)
  • Mounting systems for LED monitors (Kansas City)
  • Curved light boxes & tension fabric frames (Fargo, Nashville)
  • Custom trim systems (Chicago, San Francisco, Minneapolis)
  • Decorative metal work (Austin)
  • Custom polycarbonate lids - (Nashville)

Click to view a map of Stylmark’ s CCA Installations

Showing Up and Throwing Up

As I begin my preparations for GlobalShop 2018, I remember what my boss at Stylmark told me when I started in 2006 – “Stylmark just doesn’t show up and throw up”.  As someone who came to Stylmark from a major medical device company, I had to think about what she said.   In my former life, that is kind of what I did.  Our products were small and there were not a lot of creative ways to display them.  We did run a golf event in our booth yearly, handed out the best swag at the show and hosted a very popular evening event that on some days was better attended than the show floor.   I spent more time on those events and what swag we were handing out then on showcasing our products.

In 2005 after hearing those words, my approach changed to preparing, planning and engaging my audience.   I started to plan six months prior to GlobalShop.  I didn’t want to be one of those companies struggling on show site with issues.  I wanted to do all of my struggling here in Minnesota long before my booth hits the show floor. 

So now every year in August, I have my kick-off meeting.  As a team, we discuss the focus of our booth & what new products to highlight.  By October, I have my booth design finalized and by January my displays are being built.  Then in February, I bring my team together to review and fine tune any displays before shipping to show-site.   Every good event planner knows it is easier to fix an issue at home vs. the show floor, where over time labor rates eat away at your budget and ROI.

So please stop by the Stylmark booth #5020 in Chicago!  Mention you read this blog and receive a Starbucks gift card!

See you in 45 days!

Mirror, Mirror

Since we were little girls, we watched Snow White and know the story behind the words Mirror, Mirror.

As we got older, the mirror began to say words similar to a song by M2M:

Mirror Mirror lie to me
Show me what I want to see

Well the reason we want to mirror to lie to us is probably due to its lighting and how it makes us look when trying on clothes in a fitting room.  And nothing is more frustrating than trying on an outfit in a fitting room only for it to appear completely different when you wear it again at home.