Holiday sales strongest in years

For the last few weeks we have been hearing “Holiday sales strongest in years”.  By all accounts, it was the strongest holiday shopping season in six years.   Fueled by low unemployment, high consumer confidence and the magical 32 shopping days between Thanksgiving & Christmas, total retail US sales increased 5.1% according to many industry sources.

For many fixture manufacturers like Stylmark, this is great news for our customers and their brick-and-mortar efforts.  Those holiday sales increased to $878.38 billion – that is more $15 billion more than the $863 billion initially projected.  Brick-and-mortar still represents the majority (87.7%) of holiday sales.

According to Andrew Lipsman, principal analyst at eMarketer, retailers are luring in shoppers to newly remodeled stores and streamlining the checkout process. 

In 2019, we find ourselves in the midst of a retail renaissance, not a retail apocalypse.  Forward looking retailers that rethink the consumer experience and how to successfully implement it, will uncover new channels to thrive in the ever-changing brick-and-mortar landscape. 

Store design and development has quite a task to keep pace with the rapid transformation ahead.  Re-defining in-store experiences will keep that foot traffic strong and lead to another great year for retailers in 2019.   It is going to be a fast-paced, exciting 2019 and Stylmark can’t wait to support our customers!

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!!!

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!

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!

Waterjet - The Science Behind the Magic

As a figure skater’s skate cuts into the ice during the perfect sit-spin, the waterjet has a similar motion as it cuts using a small stream of water to erode material along a predefined path to create eye-catching shapes.  Both earning the perfect “6” from the judges. 
At the last Glass Build America show, I thought it was very interesting that not many attendees knew Stylmark had a Flow Mach 3 4020B with Dynamic XD (4m x 2m) waterjet and is one of the few manufactures who can waterjet aluminum and anodize that same material all under one roof.   And not only does the waterjet cut aluminum but a host of other materials including:
•    Steel
•    Brass
•    Glass / Mirrors
•    Plastic
•    Titanium
•    Fiberglass
•    Granite

Stylmark’s waterjet cut accuracy and work envelope encompasses:
•    Materials up to 1” thick cut with 0.001” to 0.003” tolerance
•    Over 1” cut with 0.005” to 0.010” tolerance
•    Cut up to 7” thick
•    Work envelope of 80” x 158”
•    Can cut intricate parts with tight radius
•    Bevel cutting using Dynamic XD, head can tilt 60 degrees each direction from vertical axis

Stylmark can cut logos and anodize them out of aluminum to match the rest of the store décor including showcases, light boxes and fitting room systems creating a unified brand message.   Or for example, if you are having your log cut out of granite, Stylmark can work with you to find an anodized aluminum match for your other store elements. 

Color Anodizing and Branding Store Design

Color Anodizing and Branding Store Design


Anodizing is an electrochemical process that converts the metal surface into a decorative, durable, corrosion-resistant, anodic oxide finish.  Anodizing is a “Conversion Coating”, and is very different than paints, plating and other common coatings on metal. While paints and plating sit on top of the surface of the aluminum, anodizing converts the outer layer of aluminum to aluminum oxide, so the coating is fully integrated with the aluminum substrate. Therefore, anodizing doesn’t chip or flake like paint, it is a completely integral with the underlying metal.  The anodized aluminum process typically includes the following steps: cleaning, pre-treating, anodizing, coloring, and sealing.