RETAILER'S DECOR INCLUDES UNIQUE SIGNAGE

EAGLE RIVER, Wis. -- Bonson's Pick 'n Save used a recently completed renovation to introduce new signage designed to enhance the customer shopping experience.Co-owner Chuck Bonson's intention was to create in his store "a warm atmosphere and a look that's an exception to the drab and the mundane." And he did it with easel-style, changeable message boards that currently grace his produce, floral, deli,

EAGLE RIVER, Wis. -- Bonson's Pick 'n Save used a recently completed renovation to introduce new signage designed to enhance the customer shopping experience.

Co-owner Chuck Bonson's intention was to create in his store "a warm atmosphere and a look that's an exception to the drab and the mundane." And he did it with easel-style, changeable message boards that currently grace his produce, floral, deli, bakery and cafe departments.

"These signs tie in with a more upscale look," Bonson said. "And they're more appealing than a piece of paper or floor stand. Our staff members have commented how unique the signs are and how they add to the theater of presenting the products."

Each sign, made of curve-shaped, black-painted, multidensity fiber board, allots about 50% to 60% of the area to visuals. For example, the dairy signage features a series of recognizable cheeses in wedges and rounds -- brie, swiss, blue, edam among them -- cascading from the upper left quadrant toward the bottom edge where shredded cheese, a grater and a bowl of dip are placed.

The produce signage has a similar bordered effect, with brightly painted tomatoes, onions, garlic cloves, green peppers, eggplant, carrots, mushrooms and scallions. For floral, the board displays a simple blue vase containing sunflowers, peonies and roses.

Retailers write on the sign's blank area with a paint marker that gets removed with window cleaner.

Michelle Yates, the signs' designer and owner of MAD Creations, Winnipeg, Manitoba, has been acutely aware of the shift in food and beverage signage needs for several years. She creates both custom-made and generic signage in different-size easel, wall-hanging and table-top formats.

"High-end, specialized supermarkets are placing much more emphasis on decor," Yates said. "It's not going to work when an awesomely designed store has traditional, lame signage. The signage needs to be part of the decor."

One of her retail clients was so keen on matching signage with their venues' overall environment that the company sent her design elements, such as paint chips and fabric swatches, to use as her primary inspiration.

"Retailers, especially smaller retailers, love that the signs are original and that the writing is not chalk and therefore can't be smudged," she said. Her prices are competitive with traditional chalk and market boards.

Yates noted that such original artwork can be transferred to different areas, such as wallpaper, aprons, napkins and packaging. This strategy creates an integrated concept or visual that's unique to each retailer.

Nicholas Giammarco, president of Marco Design Group, Northville, Mich. -- the company that oversaw Bonson's renovation -- underscored how important it is for retailers to find a singular, identifying motif.

"Retailers should always look for a point of differentiation from their competitors," he said. "If all store owners use the same components and signage vehicles, the stores look homogeneous and the only point of difference becomes price. And competing on price alone is a tough way to survive."

What Bonson's wanted to accomplish, Giammarco said, was "to create a 'market' feel that projects freshness and quality." Yates' signs -- because they don't look pre-fabricated but instead reflect a handmade, craft-like quality, he noted -- "reinforce Bonson's mission statement."