There are various considerations when it is time to invest in outdoor product displays, including durability, aesthetics and sustainability. Certainly, the initial capital outlay is important, but so is long term maintenance expense. Since most retailers hope to see their outdoor displays last years or decades, ongoing maintenance costs require careful consideration.
With that in mind, let’s compare and contrast two prominent materials used in outdoor display: natural wood and recycled plastic.
For many retailers, the aesthetics of natural wooden displays have helped businesses cultivate a warm and natural image that appeals to live goods consumers. Custom-crafted, rustic wood displays are often used for displaying seasonal merchandise like flowerpots and pumpkins. Wood is typically strong, and able to support heavy objects. When needed they can be painted or stained to refresh faded and weathered wood to be more consistent with a store’s branding.
The most durable outdoor wood products are constructed using rot- and insect-resistant woods such as; cedar, oak, teak, eucalyptus and acacia. Although many might perceive wood displays as environmentally friendly, this is true only when timber is harvested from sustainable plantations.
Unfortunately, the most durable hardwoods are also quite expensive. When displays are fashioned from pine or other inexpensive lumber, they require annual maintenance due to the impact of hot-cold and wet-dry cycles. High humidity causes unprotected wood to warp, while low humidity causes shrinkage and cracking.
The point at which the moisture content of the wood and surrounding air is balanced is called equilibrium moisture content (EMC). When the moisture content of the wood is higher or lower than that of the environment, the wood swells or shrinks in response. In dry conditions, wood may crack and joints may open up. Cut ends are particularly vulnerable to moisture intrusion, potentially leading to warping and de-lamination of plywood and veneers.
As a result, it is often necessary to apply a coat of varnish to the wood every year to reduce deterioration. Outdoor varnish is a fairly expensive product that often costs $20 to $40 a gallon. Labor costs for re-stained wood displays drive maintenance costs higher. Even with regular re-varnishing, the potential for wood swelling remains a drawback.
To compare plastic displays with wood ones, consider the durability and stability of outdoor furniture crafted from polywood. Many retailers find that displays made of heavy-duty, recycled plastic last decades, and they require very minimal maintenance.
Extreme heat and cold are no match for these rugged displays, and neither is excessive or extremely low humidity. They hold up at outdoor garden centers in California’s desert heat. And, when an Arctic blast pours down into the northern cold weather tier of states, recycled plastic displays prove their durability yet again. For example, SPC recycled plastic displays have survived Michigan’s harsh winters at Meijer stores for 20+ years and at various convenience stores/gas stations in the US and Canada.
Better yet, recycled plastic displays do not require the recurring maintenance expenses common with outdoor wood displays. Put away the brushes and rollers, because there is no need to apply coat after coat of varnish as the years go by. Since the color is molded right into the product, scuffs and scratches are minimized and are not distracting, and painting is never needed. Furthermore, lightweight recycled plastic displays are quick and easy to assemble and are sturdy enough to support a wide variety of products from one season to another, all year long.
As you consider plastic displays, understand that not all products are fabricated from recycled material. Displays crafted from non-recycled plastic are not “green,” because most non-recycled plastic comes from oil, a nonrenewable resource that increases carbon emissions.
SPC Retail manufactures specialty displays made from 100-percent post-consumer recycled plastic. Our bold, versatile, modular display systems breathe new life into old spaces. Our patented kit-of-parts system allows us to quickly and easily assemble parts available from inventory into thousands of properly proportioned displays that meet the needs of our large and diverse global clientele.