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With fixture installations, success is in the details

By Matt Mangold, Mangold@RetailStoreSolutionsInc.com

Over the course of managing the construction of some 600 or 700 retail stores, I’ve learned a lot about fixture installations. Through trial and error, and by observing the successes and failures of various partners, I eventually developed an awareness of the problem spots that lead to cost overruns and expensive delays. Dealing with a problem before it becomes a problem requires you to ponder the process a little, but you’ll find the answers make the front-end questioning worth it.

Obviously, cost is a big factor when deciding who is going to install your fixtures, but it’s not the only factor. Choosing the correct partner to use during the installation process can depend on several factors, including the level of expertise required for the installation and how complicated the fixtures are to install. Probably several partners will be able to handle the work and even more will be willing to bid for it. Sorting out the good from the bad can make all the difference.

The most obvious partner is your fixture manufacturer. That organization knows the most about how the fixtures are assembled and they’re already familiar with your expectations. In many cases, you probably have a better line of communication with them than you do with any other component of your store build team.

If you choose to bid out the work to another party, however, you can’t simply put the manufacturer on the back burner. Even if they’re not involved in the installation, you’re still going to need to come to several legal understandings with them, particularly when it comes to establishing the boundary lines for the liability of several key components.

First, you must have a way to evaluate the quality of the fixtures that arrive on site, as well as a way to verify the accuracy of the delivery. Additionally, you have to make sure your contract with the manufacturer spells out a clear chain of custody for the title of the fixtures. If the delivery truck drives off a cliff, you, the insurance company and the lawyers are going to want to know who is responsible for the load.

On a much more practical front, you’re going to want to ensure a good bill of lading is issued by the manufacturer and that someone capable of reviewing the bill of lading is there when the components come off the truck. Often, delivery is one of the places where a carrier is pressed to make up time, which can lead to careless and costly mistakes.

Even the characteristics of the truck itself should be confirmed before delivery. For example, not every truck is going to be capable of unloading at a strip center, which likely won’t have a dock. And don’t assume the carrier has thought about getting the equipment through the doors -- if they haven’t, you’re suddenly behind schedule. It may be their fault, but it quickly becomes your problem.

Has your manufacturer provided you with adequate installation instructions? Manuals are a good idea if the installations are to occur at multiple locations. And have you considered the skill level required of the installers? Depending on the complexity of the job, some companies use a single individual with the necessary skills to oversee a ready labor force. If you decide to use your general contractor to do the install, a good manual or appropriate documentation is a huge help.

And then, of course, you’ve got the union issue. Depending on your company’s position on union labor and the aggressiveness of the local carpenter’s union, you may need to hire a local tradesman from the carpenter’s union. In many cases, the union will be satisfied if one or two people from the local union are on hand to support the installation, but you want be sure, since the ramifications of an unhappy union can be very public and very ugly. Some landlords even have stipulations in their lease agreements, so it pays to check.

Coordinating the onsite presence of the various trades, company personnel, IT and other agents is also important. Skillful orchestration of the worksite keeps the different participants from bumping into and running up on one another, which keeps everyone happy and avoids the additional costs associated with one trade waiting for another to finish.

Finally, a thorough, methodical approach to the final punch is key to making sure you wrap up the project on time and on budget. Every door, every surface, every light -- everything should be checked in detail to make sure you find the problems during the install or as soon after as possible. Most likely your fixture manufacturer will be less likely to want to repair chips, broken doors, etc. if its not requested right away.

Matt Mangold is a president of Retail Store Solutions Inc., which provides management of store build projects, merchandising projects, store closures and asset recovery, fixture purchase and installation. He can be reached at Mangold@RetailStoreSolutionsInc.com.

© 2014