I Want My P.O.P.!

There is no escape.

Posters, banners, hanging mobiles, sun catchers, stickers, dominos, light boxes, benches, inflatable “whatevers,” bottle openers, key chains, beer-can coolers, racks, stands, shelves, displays, and on and on.

This is the propaganda known as P.O.P., and you have little control over its arrival.

It’s the stuff you either love or hate when it’s delivered to your shop or your warehouse. It’s the decorations worth making room for on the walls or filling the dumpster with before they see the light of day.

As much as some P.O.P gets us stoked, we often view P.O.P. as “junk” or “disposable.” We may even take it for granted. Although our shops, warehouses, trade-show booths, and bedrooms would look pretty bland without it.

Manufacturers have employees and departments devoted solely to the development of P.O.P. items. Some companies, like Volcom for example, take P.O.P. so seriously that they wouldn’t answer my questions with a response other than “classified.” Perhaps a mind-blowing P.O.P. revolution is in the works over there. Time will tell.

What exactly is P.O.P.? It stands for “point of purchase.” Basically, its any in-store displays, signs, posters, and art that sells a manufacturer’s products, and a vehicle in which product is displayed or marketed. According to Bree Duncan, P.O.P. designer for DC Shoes, “P.O.P. makes the consumer aware of your brand, directs the consumer to your products, and displays the style and look of your brand.”

Typically, the most P.O.P. comes from shoe and clothing companies. One can hypothesize that because these companies make a larger margin on their items they can put some extra time and money into making clever little promotional materials to lure in any would-be or existing customers. And since those margins are larger, it is worthwhile to put more time into swaying people to buy their products.

Skate shops have been inundated with everything from light boxes and life-size human cardboard cutouts to skateable benches from footwear giants. But that’s not to say that the hardgood companies aren’t giving the softgood companies a little competition. Sometimes, simplicity and originality are just as effective as the massive, in-your-face programs: consider Alien Workshop and their suction-cup sun catchers, or Ricta, with boxes that morph into wheel displays. An example of one of the more memorable P.O.P. developments in recent years, Girl Skateboards produced and ran ads featuring a huge blow-up version of their signature logo figure.

One way or another, all shops end up with some form of P.O.P., even if it’s as simple as banners or posters. It seems obvious that many factors contribute to the type and amount of P.O.P. in a shop from any given manufacturer. According to Mark Nass, visual display/P.O.P manager for Vans, “P.O.P. is available to all accounts buying product. Sales reps will order the product to be directly shipped to the accounts, or reps will carry it with them and personally deliver and set it up-securing valuable ‘real estate’ in shops. In some cases we will auto-ship P.O.P. to all accounts that order a specific shoe to ensure that we get good coverage. Accounts love getting cool stuff they can display.”

Going direct with a company as opposed to getting the product from a wholesale distributor may create a more intimate relationship with the manufacturer. Therefore they may be more willing to send more P.O.P.

Obviously, the amount of money a shop spends with a company may correlate with the amount or type of P.O.P. a shop receives. Differences in P.O.P. received may also be determined by whether it’s going to large chains versus small core shops-or the amount of free space in a shop. Even the size of a store is a factor considered in the dispersal of P.O.P. items. Some P.O.P. is considered the property of the manufacturers, even after they put it in your store. A retailer filling one company’s sunglass case with anothher company’s product, or putting stickers all over the case, for example, could result in reps freaking out when they see it. In some cases, P.O.P. items may be reposessed.

Is P.O.P. actually effective, or is it just a necessity in order to keep up with the competition? Perhaps both. As time passes, more and more companies are diving deeper into it. Spitfire, for example, is now boxing their wheels. Footwear and apparel companies are making more elaborate racks and displays with more brand imagery involved. Additionally, P.O.P. is evolving into more high-end items, because shops desire a cleaner, less-cluttered look than in the past. Large structures and bench displays seem to be all the rage. DC Shoe’s Bree Duncan explains, “The bigger the display and signage, the better.”

“These items just get better with time-more creative designs and use of materials,” says Vans’ Nass. “In the past, shoe shelves were plastic-usually clear. Now you see all different types of materials, colors, and finishes. You see metal, wood, fabric wraps-in all types of interesting shapes and colors. The designs of the items tend to mirror the shoe designs. As the shoes have become cleaner and sleeker so have the displays.”

The word “custom” is even being thrown around a lot lately. “We have a representative, Bill Conrad, who is in constant travel throughout the U.S., visiting all of our retailers, building customized P.O.P and window displays for them-each one is different, and each one is unique to its own shop,” says Timothy Nickloff, PR manager for Sole Technology. According to Duncan, DC is also building custom light boxes for customers who request them.

So what makes for good, effective P.O.P.? The answer really is quite simple. Anything new and innovative that draws customer attention, logo-driven items that represent brand identity and product image, items that can be utilized in all areas of the shop, and items that create excitement and drive sales. Beedle (yes he only goes by “Beedle”) is a buyer for Fast Forward-a chain of fifteen stores in Texas. He says P.O.P needs to be three dimensional- something that pops out at the retailer.

Van’s Nass, on the other hand, jokes about the somewhat peripheral fan-based culture that surrounds some P.O.P products with cult-like appeal. “You know you did something good when you see it on eBay with bids.”

Matt Newton, who’s in charge of promotions at Deluxe offers an opinion from the other side of the P.O.P. fence. “At Deluxe, we feel that a lot of P.O.P is unnecessary. Our integrity lies in the people that we sponsor at Real and Anti Hero for example. Our P.O.P. is skateboarding and the ability of our skaters-traditional P.O.P. is not our focus.”

Good point Matt, the landfills of America thank you.