By Jill C. Lafferty
Tensioned fabric displays have been a staple in the exhibit and event arenas for some time, but this application is also finding its way into the retail sector, from grocery stores to high-end department stores, and from column wraps and ceiling displays to complete temporary retail spaces for private demonstrations and sales.
“The retailers are becoming more familiar with tensioned graphic solutions,” says Rob Evans of Belfast, Maine-based Moss Inc. “As the awareness grows, the market is definitely going to grow.”
Evans credits the sales forces of tensioned graphic manufacturers, trade publications, and design trends for the popularity of tensioned fabric solutions in retail environments.
“I think that part of it is the look, the aesthetics of it,” Evans says. “People are liking the look of fabric and metal. It allows them in a lot of cases to be a little more creative with the shape that they are presenting, and then there is the ability to change graphics.”
Mary Carey, vice president of sales and marketing for Transformit Design, Gorham, Maine, says that every market is seeing a significant increase in the use of tensioned structures as a material substitution for plywood or acrylic because of advances in textiles and economics.
“However, the crucial thing is that tensioned fabric goes beyond material substitution,” Carey says. “In other words it goes beyond being a slab of plywood. It is a technology in which a fabric is tensioned into a strengthening position that can hold up a frame.”
The Hannaford grocery chain turned to Transformit when it wanted to be a trendsetter in grocery décor.
“We made custom column wraps that fit around existing steel columns,” says Carissa D’Amico, Transformit manager of special projects. “They digitally printed a watermark of their logo on the column wrap fabric.”
Carey expects to see the trend grow with layering, lighting, ceiling treatments, and the use of tensioned displays to promote noise reduction. In addition, Transformit is promoting its new “ShadowGraphing” technique in which the aluminum framing is integrated into the structure as a design element as opposed to hiding the structural components.
Tensioned fabric graphics have the same benefits in retail applications as they do in trade show application, Evans says.
“Fabric graphics can be packaged very small,” he says. “You don’t have to worry about damaging it. You can take it down and set it up and it looks great. To be competitive in the retail POP market I think that there’s going to have to be solutions that are very easy to assemble quickly, and that for large runs there needs to be more economical solutions.”