By Peter Saunders
Saks Fifth Avenue, an international luxury department store chain owned by the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), recently filled the windows and interiors of its 41 full-line locations in Canada and the U.S. with floral themes, showcasing colourful graphics that were digitally printed onto both sides of display boards and then custom-cut to create standees and bases.
The unique graphics were part of the retailer’s ‘Glam Gardens’ annual spring beauty event, which debuted three years ago as a charitable partnership with the New York Botanical Garden and celebrates the chain’s top beauty and fragrance product suppliers. For Glam Gardens 2017, the concept was taken to new heights when more than 550 standees—including design variations measuring 1.5, 1.8 and 2.1 m (5, 6 and 7 ft) tall—were produced by Ignition, a visual communications company based in New York, N.Y., and installed in the stores in April.
With respect to graphic design, the client chose this year to complement a black-and-white palette for its striped awnings and display backgrounds with ‘neon’ hues for its floral images. Saks provided a general vision for these graphics at the outset and then Ignition’s own graphic designers worked with floral paintings to develop the digital image files for the standees.
“We went through several rounds of revisions,” says Nicole Kronenberger, Ignition’s director of project management. “The client wanted these to be free-standing displays, but didn’t want a ‘chunky’ base. We wanted to maintain the integrity of our client’s vision, so we created several dozen prototypes to check the stability of the standees within a slotted base that was designed to look like grass.”
Ignition’s creative contacts at Saks reviewed the flower standees throughout the prototyping stage, approving the design concept.
“They loved them,” says Kronenberger.
During this phase of the project, Ignition tested a variety of display boards. In the end, the company selected 13-mm (0.5-in.) thick Gatorplast, which bonds a layer of extruded polystyrene (XPS) foam between two high-impact polystyrene (PS) cap sheets, manufactured by 3A Composites and locally supplied by Laird Plastics.
“We wanted a lightweight, rigid substrate that would be self-supporting and could be produced with a black centre,” explains Kronenberger. “Gatorplast was economical and could carry its own weight. It also produced exact cuts.”
Laird, for its part, recommended the material for the standees because it could be custom-ordered in a specific colour combination, manufactured quickly and shipped directly.
“We have a well-established relationship with 3A,” says Wayne Elliott, graphic specialist with Laird. “We stock the 13-mm thick white Gatorplast and its PS facers can be direct-printed on both sides with a flatbed press. 3A also supported the timeframe for the custom colour order, manufacturing, loading and shipping it out their door as quickly as possible, so the deadline for these standees could be met.”
Printing and cutting
Ignition used its Electronics for Imaging (EFI) Vutek GS3250LX Pro ‘hybrid’ ultraviolet-curing (UV-curing) light-emitting diode (LED) press—engineered specifically for the production-level printing of point-of-purchase (POP) graphics—to output double-sided poppy, garden rose and daisy graphics for the standees and grass for the bases.
Both the standee and base graphics were direct-printed onto Gatorplast, but the floral standees used the custom version of the board—with a white facer/black foam/white facer colour combination—while the grass-shaped bases used Laird’s standard white version. No surface priming or pre-coating was needed.
For the standees, Ignition’s team was able to configure the Vutek machine for direct printing in multiples, so as to use nearly the entire 1.2 x 2.4-m (4 x 8-ft) sheets of Gatorplast. These printed boards were then cut using
a 3.2-m (10.5-ft) wide Zünd G3 3XL digital system to create the standees.
The floral standees were produced and shipped to Saks’ stores for public display in a tight three-week time frame, starting in late March. The creative contacts’ pleased sentiment was echoed to an overwhelming degree in the multiple responses from the individual stores’ visual merchandising managers.
“Saks provided a corporate visual merchandising budget for each store for these displays,” Kronenberger explains, “but then we also got lots of requests from the stores for more of the flower standees, which meant they were tapping into their individual budgets. Some of the stores’ visual managers chose to hang the flowers from the ceiling, so those didn’t have bases, but in the end, our space in New York was overflowing with flowers!”