Retailers want sturdy, compelling fixtures for merchandising displays. They also want aggressive point-of-purchase units capable of grabbing customers by the collars and dragging them over for a look.

While the design of fixtures and POP stands may be the keys to achieving these goals, the quality of the materials used to build the pieces ultimately determines their success.

Masonite's Duron has supported retail fixturing and POP design goals for years, thanks to its strength and machine-ability. Made with highly refined fibers, Duron is a pressed hardboard, smooth on both sides. The smooth surfaces accept a wide variety of finishes from paint to paper and require no sanding. Fabricators can saw it, punch it, route it, and die- or laser-cut it.

"Duron is an S2S industrial hardboard that is hard, strong, smooth and dense," says Nick Pavlovich, sales and marketing manager with the Industrial Products Group at Chicago-based Masonite Corp.

"It's a versatile material for us," says Mark Rogers, manager of the wood-shop division of Terrel, Texas-based Madix Store Fixtures. "We buy it as a primed surface and paint it, and we buy it in solid surface board as well as in Peg-Board, in as many as 40 to 50 sizes. It's ideal for grocery store shelving done with a solid or Peg-Board back. Primarily we use it as a component of fixturing, although we have done some POP displays with it, too."

Tom Crane, general manager of High Point, N.C.-based Custom Finishers Inc. (CFI), a fixture and POP fabricator noted for its laser-cutting capabilities, favors Duron for its thinness and strength.

"The thickest panel you can get is one-quarter inch," he says. "So it's thin. We use it for a lot of laser-cut panels for POP components. We cut it to hold specialty hooks and hanging devices. It's also strong and less expensive than plastic. If you are thinking about using a blue acrylic panel for the back of a rack, you could go with blue painted hardboard, which is strong and rigid just like the plastic."

One recent CFI project for a sporting goods manufacturer called for printing a Duron panel with a life-size photograph of a Detroit Redwings hockey player holding up the Stanley Cup.

"We painted the Duron white and did a silk-screen print of the hockey player," Crane says. "Then we laser-cut a series of holes and slots in the panel. The holes were to mount the panel on a frame, and the slots were to hang product."

CFI also uses Duron to simulate wood-grain panels with a gravure printing process. "We have cylinders that have photographs of different woods," Crane says. "It's an inexpensive alternative to pre-finished plywood. After the gravure process, we'll often screenprint signage messages and graphics right onto the simulated wood."

A more recent technique involves laminating the hardboard with paper printed with a wood-grain photograph. "We don't do that," Crane says. "But both techniques can look good. The choice of one of these methods over the other involves quantities. If you want 10 million sq. ft., you should probably do it with the paper laminate. If you want a one-time run of 5,000 or 10,000 sq. ft. of POP materials, then you should probably use our process. "