Merchandising: New life for old materials - SNEWS

Merchandising: New life for old materials

Reclaimed, repurposed and recycled materials are hot trends in visual merchandising today and the creativity keeps growing. SNEWS Merchandising Editor Robin Enright explains how recycled wood can convey many other messages beyond a just a rustic barn.

Reclaimed, repurposed and recycled materials are hot trends in visual merchandising today and the creativity keeps growing.

Once upon a time, giving old wood new life was synonymous with the flavor of a rustic barn. But today, endless themes and messages can be exhibited with old materials to reflect industrial, coastal and beach themes as well as contemporary or Dwell Magazine-type design.

Recycled materials can add warmth, personality and visual texture and add voice to a brand story. Despite the differences in use, one thread appears constant: The desire to find soul in design.

Bricks from a factory in New Hampshire, wood from Vermont and metal repurposed from a previous Timberland booth.

Outdoor Retailer booths like Timberland, United by Blue, Life is Good or Danner Lacrosse all had booths born of the past but with distinct brand personality. The same is true in retail. How do these distinctly different brands and retailers use recycled materials, but maintain such recognizable individuality?

Leather dies find new life as a footwear mountain fixture for Danner.

According to Wisconsin-based Urban Evolutions, which sources an array of reclaimed building materials, many clients communicate their needs by explaining the personality of their brand. Story, color, texture and material are all discussed and then the hunt for the appropriate materials begins. Sometimes the supplier already has something inside their 50,000-square-foot warehouse that is an immediate no-brainer, like the wood with metal embedded in it that was a perfect match for retailer Harley Davidson.

Because of the individuality of wood, slate and brick, Urban Evolutions’ owner’s Robin and Jeff Janson believe it is best for them to be involved in the initial design process rather than later due to the dictating personality reclaimed materials has.

The different personalities of wood.

Urban Evolutions was the reclaimed wood source for London’s Anthropologie, and Salt Lake City’s No Boundaries, but that is where the resemblance ends. Each store has a distinctly different personality.

London Anthropologie

Salt Lake City No Boundaries

Materials that can be given new life both in structure and as visual merchandising props can be found in old factories, schools, fences, whiskey barrels, even scarps of fabric as seen on the walls of the booth of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market’s Best of Booth winner, Prana. Vision and inspiration determine the future use of what could be considered one man’s garbage into another’s creative tool.

Scraps of fabric wound into balls become props that add colorful splashes of color while framing collections.


When done well, these old materials create a finished product that reads like a piece of original and organic art. With the wise brick and mortar retailer aiming to provide an experience, these materials add a personality that can make shopping become less like a hurried errand and more like a lengthy visit with an old friend we look forward to visiting.

Add a cup of coffee and we might never leave.

SNEWS Merchandising Editor Robin Enright

is the founder of Merchandising Matters,

which provides merchandising support to brands, retailers and their agencies.

Reach her via email at

with questions, ideas and suggestions.




Merchandising Tour: It’s a material world

The difference between an effective display and one that’s ho-hum depends greatly on the materials used. When you spot something that stops you for a moment, sparks your interest and entertains, you’ll undoubtedly know the difference. Whether you were a veteran or a first-timer more


All aboard for Winter Market Merchandising Tours!

It’s hard to believe, but in just a few short weeks the outdoor community once again will gather at the Salt Palace for Outdoor Retailer Winter Market. At OR, innovation is a guarantee in product manufacturing, booth design and visual merchandising. Every show has at least one more


Merchandising Madness: Meeting the challenge of merchandising accessories

Every store has a category that is difficult to merchandise and quite often accessories are the culprit. Socks, water bottles, CO2 cartridges and first aid kits all can present challenges in clean merchandising and clarity of messaging. This column is the first in a series on more


Merchandising Tour: Setting the story scene

Wall fixtures, props, mannequins, signage and product packaging are more than a mere backdrop to fantastic merchandise in any retail market. Each of these items should reflect brand messaging, or one risks a confusing consumer experience. Think of choosing fixtures as setting a more


Merchandising Tour: Conveying an environmental message

Giving back is a positive trend in business, but such goodwill must be authentic to resonate with today’s savvy consumers. Two-year-old United by Blue has an environmental focus on improving our waterways, but the company also designs and manufactures merchandise that stands on more


Merchandising Tour: Store environment that invites smiles

Moosejaw could never be accused of taking itself too seriously — except when it comes to gear, of course. In fact, we’re guessing that it would be impossible to hang out in the retail environment without smiling. Boulder, Colo. now has a brick-and-mortar Moosejaw, and from more


The Lizard Lounge Way: Spring merchandising -- out with the old, in with the new

Welcome to the The Lizard Lounge Way, a regular merchandising column in SNEWS®. Each month, the Lizard Lounge team -- Kelsie Morrow, store manager and a Portland Art Institute professor of merchandising, Shelby Coral, head men's visual merchandiser, and Jolie Giese, the chief more


Merchandising Tour: Natural environmental display ideas from Winter Market

A trade show is a gold mine of visual display ideas. Exhibitors spend numerous hours and many dollars planning how to display the products they sell. After all, it is a competitive market and they often have only the trade show experience to make an impression on potential and more


Surprise me: Safety is the new risk in visual merchandising

All too often today, the surprise in merchandising is that there are no surprises. Your windows might feature mannequins wearing the latest gear and flashing bright color, but the same is true of the retailer next door or down the street. So while I’d give you an “A” for color more