As custom retail fixture manufacturers, we love using wood and wood products to create unique and showstopping designs. Our shop’s cabinetmaker journeymen love for natural wood – of all types and grains and finishes – is a given. Natural wood gives a very specific feel to a space and often the choice of wood and finish help a designer tell a brand story. But in the world of retail fixtures, it is very rare we have the opportunity to build solid wood pieces. For the most part, we work with veneers, high pressure laminate and thermally fused laminate.

Creating with wood veneers dates back to ancient Egypt. Since then, there have been many, many, MANY advancements that allow for high-speed production and easier application. With wood veneers, you can choose the type of wood, and the type of cut to get the wood grain effect you’re looking for. Up until recently, it was the only way to achieve a beautiful, natural woodgrain finish.

Now, with advancements in both photography and laser printing, laminates (HPL and TFL) have advanced to the point that their quality and options have expanded what is possible in the retail fixture world.

How do you know what you should use for your retail fixtures?

Simple. Ask yourself the following questions. If you’re working with a fixture or retail space designer, you’ll want to discuss all of these questions with them as well.

  1. What look and colour are you looking for in your retail fixtures?

If you love and want the look of real, natural wood, then veneers would be your best design option. If you’re looking for a very specific shade of tangerine orange that matches your brand palate perfectly, you’re going to want to explore HPL and TFL options.

  1. Will your leaseholder need to approve of your materials?

Malls generally fall into 3 categories (A, B, or C) based on their overall sales per square foot. Class A malls aim for $500 or more in sales per square foot. A class B mall, $300 - $500. And a class C would deliver less than $300 per square foot. In the A and B categories, the ownership or management team of the mall will most likely want to ensure a minimum standard for all design and fixtures in your space. Ideally, you’d make sure you’re clear about mall expectations before beginning your fixture design process. Many class A malls will require wood veneer or TFL.

  1. How long is your lease for?

Custom fixtures are designed to work in a specific space. If you sign a lease for a space for 10 or more years, you can justify the cost of using more expensive materials because your fixtures will need to be built to last. Under 10 years, that’s where it becomes a bit harder to justify more expensive materials.

  1. How long are you expecting your fixtures to last?

This question is definitely tied to the one above but it allows you to think beyond your lease. Creating lasting fixtures is harder than it seems. Design is constantly changing. What looks good and modern today, may not read that way in 5 or 10 years. If you’re interested in fixtures that are very “of the moment” you might want to consider using a less expensive material and changing out your fixtures more regularly.

  1. How rough will people be on your fixtures?

Know your audience. Understanding who is coming into your store and how they are interacting with your merchandise should determine your fixture finish requirements. High-traffic areas and stores that rely on frequent repeat purchases will need fixtures designed for heavy wear and tear. Another consideration right now is that HPL and TFL allow for disinfecting where wood veneer does not. All of this needs to be taken into consideration in your fixture design.

  1. What is your budget for fixtures?

Your budget for fixtures is just one of many different budgets you’ll be trying to manage when setting up a new retail space. No two retailer’s budgets will ever be the same nor is there a simple formula for determining “the right” fixture budget for any given space. Even if you had a budget for your fixtures in mind before you started reading this article, you may have already decided to reconsider your fixture strategy – changing your expected ROI. Are you a retailer that will budget to get exactly what you want for your fixtures? Or are you a retailer that will choose fixtures that will fit into an existing budget? Both are valid options.



Material choices for fixtures can be overwhelming – especially in retail where you’re depending on those fixtures to help you sell! Hopefully, you now have a bit more perspective on what you need to be thinking about in order to be confident in your decisions.

If you have any questions about how to budget for retail fixtures or questions about materials, we’d love to hear from you. And if you’re looking for custom designed retail fixtures that are built in Canada, we’d love to work with you to bring your vision to life. Want to see some of our work? Visit our portfolio.

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